Maravillas Ruiz Miñano

I am fascinated by the enormous phenotypic diversity we see in landscapes, which we now know can arise from genetic exchange between closely related organisms. Thus, my main drive is to understand the mechanisms underlying this diversity. In particular, I am interested in those mechanisms that generate adaptation and how differences in environment influence evolutionary convergence and divergence of species.Mara3

The European wall lizards (Podarcis muralis) split into several lineages during isolation in ice refugia and now have come into natural secondary contact in north-western Italy, where there is evidence of strong asymmetric introgression. Specifically, previous experimental work has shown that this asymmetry is driven by sexual selection and recently whole genome analyses have revealed that about 3% of the genome has moved in the same direction (Tuscan lineage to Western European lineage). In addition, our observations in the field show that introgression might be restricted at high altitudes.

During my PhD, my aim is to investigate: (1) the processes that drive these geographic patterns of introgression and what – if anything – is restricting introgression, and; (2) the consequences this introgression has for the evolution of sexual dimorphism.

To this end, I spend half of my time doing research in Europe, where I combine field work in Italy and lab work in Lund, Sweden. I use next generation sequencing (RADseq) to generate genetic data that will be used in landscape genetic analyses, across a range of scales, from coarser to finer. The combination of these approaches, together with experiments in captivity, will allow us to identify which selection pressures are acting on genetic exchange between closely related species. This will allow us to better understand the mechanisms driving phenotypic diversity across these landscapes.

Supervisors

Research experienceMara1-5

My previous research has focused primarily on understanding how organisms evolve and identifying the mechanisms that drive the great diversity of phenotypes and behaviours present in individuals and species across landscapes, using multiple approaches. After completing my bachelor’s degree in 2012, I spent one year at Uppsala University in Sweden, where I looked at different sexual behaviours of seed beetles (Callosobruchus maculatus) to investigate sexual conflict between sexes.

After my time at Uppsala University, I had the opportunity to work as a field assistant with several research groups around the world, including Australian National University, Sussex University, and Groningen University. During this time, I collected behavioural data for several species, including superb fairy wrens (Malurus cyaneus), paper wasps (Polistes dominulus), and Montagu’s harrier (Circus pygarus), which were to be used in several long-term studies investigating life story traits, sexual behaviour, and cooperative behaviour.

Between 2014 and 2016, I completed an Ecology and Evolution master’s degree at Groningen University in The Netherlands, where I had the opportunity to participate in a range of different projects. In my first master’s project, I looked at the possible effects of extra pair paternity of great tits (Parus major) on cooperation between neighbours within a population. I used microsatellites to look at relatedness between individuals. For my second master’s project, I investigated telomere dynamics and the effect of different life history traits in common terns (Sterna hirundo).

Overall, these experiences greatly enhanced my interest in investigating the drivers of diversity and their implications, and in the collection and analysis of genetic data to help answer these questions.

Education

  • PhD candidate at the University of Tasmania (2017-Present).
    • Thesis: “Causes and Consequences of Hybridization – From Behaviour to Evolution”.
  • Master in Ecology and Evolution at University of Gronigen (2014-2016).
    • Master projects Autumn 2015Between groups interaction in Siberian Jays”. Supervisors : Dr. Michael Griesser and Prof. Jan Konmdeur.
    • Master Thesis Spring 2015Telomere dynamics and sex-specific competition in a long-lived sea bird”. Supervisors: Dr. Oscar Vedder and Dr. Sandra Bouwhuis.
    • Spring 2016 Tragedy of the commons: Extra-pair paternity in great tits”. Supervisors: Dr. Kees Van Oers and Prof. Marc Naguib.
  • Honours degree in Biology at the University of Murcia (2012).

Publications

Berger, D., You, T., Miñano, M. R., Grieshop, K., Lind, M. I., Arnqvist, G., & Maklakov, A. A. (2016). Sexually antagonistic selection on genetic variation underlying both male and female same-sex sexual behaviorBMC evolutionary biology16(1), 88.

Grant and scholarships

  • Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship living allowance (2017-Present)
  • Erasmus Practice programme Research training student in Dept. of Animal Ecology, EBC, Uppsala University, Sweden (2013), “Intralocus sexual conflict and climate change”. Supervisors: Prof. Alexei Maklakov, Prof. Elena Berg.
  • Santander ScholarshipProgramme of practice in SMEs” (2012). Practice in the Ambiental S.A (Environmental office). Collaboration in environmental and conservation projects.

Courses

  • 2018  High dimensional data, Lund University, Sweden
  • 2018  Landscape genetics
  • 2018  Genomic workshop, Cesky Krumlov
  • 201Course of Radiation Protection LEVEL 5B, Groningen University
  • 201Course of Laboratory Animal Science, Uppsala University
  • 201Course of Statistical methods in natural sciences, Uppsala University
  • 200Course “scientific diving” (3 stars), Murcia, Spain

Contact

maravillas.ruizminano@utas.edu.au

maravillas.ruiz_minano@biol.lu.se

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