Graduate Student Council Research Grants


Subterranean Termites in the Appalachian Mountains: Responding to Rapid Climate Change by Regulating Gene Expression

Document Type



Ph.D. in Biological Science

Publication Date



Subterranean termites of the genus Reticulitermes are found in every state in the continental United States, and one species in particular has been very successful in establishing itself and expanding its geographic distribution. Reticulitemes flavipes populations have colonized geographic regions with environmental conditions different from those experienced by ancestral populations. In order to infer how R. flavipes populations have accomplished this, one objective of my research has been to determine historical and current dispersal patterns, as well as the environmental conditions associated with genetic variation in R. flavipes. By identifying the geographic sources of R. flavipes populations as well as the geographic spread through evolutionary time, my research is aimed at inferring the role climate change (both historical climate change and present-day rapid climate change) has played in shifting the geographic distribution of R. flavipes, as well as shaping the species’ genetic variation and affecting its gene expression patterns. Indeed, the other objective of my research is to investigate genetic mechanisms that enable termites to tolerate new environments, as this would help predict potential future changes in termite distributions, including responses to rapid climate change by modulating gene expression.

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