A $750,000 grant will support an Indiana University researcher’s work on genetic "switches." Assistant Biology Professor Erik Ragsdale says the project involves analysis of how so-called polyphenism responds to the environment and changes over time.
The funding will also support educational opportunities for six high school students and teachers over four years, as well as a postdoctoral researcher, graduate student and IU undergraduates assisting in the study.
Ragsdale says "despite the potential evolutionary consequences of developmental plasticity, such as polyphenism, we still don’t know much about the genetic mechanisms of the switches controlling it. This research project will be a genetic analysis of how polyphenism responds to input from the environment, and how its regulation changes over evolutionary time."
Ragsdale will study nematode worms, because of their mouthparts that are "perfectly tailored to specific types of food," which are adaptations and not necessarily pre-determined by genetics.