Kathleen Ferris



Research Overview

I am broadly interested in the genetics of adaptation and speciation. I am particularly interested in how organisms adapt to different local environments. In my post-doc work I am examining phenotypic variation in the house mouse, Mus domesticus, along a latitudinal cline from Brazil to upstate New York. House mice have recently colonized and expanded across the Americas from Europe. I am particularly interested in potential differences in metabolic and life history traits between populations at the extremes of this cline.

In my PhD work I studied the genetics of adaptation to granite outcrop environments in the Mimulus guttatus species complex. M. laciniatus is a member of this closely related group of monkey flowers that is endemic to the Californian Sierra Nevada mountain range. This species occurs in the middle of dry, exposed granite outcrops from mid to high elevation. Just meters away the ancestral M. guttatus grows in adjacent seeps and streams. How has M. laciniatus adapted to its comparatively harsh local environment? To answer this question I investigated the genetic architecture and adaptive significance of differences in flowering time, mating system, and leaf shape between M. laciniatus and M. guttatus using a combination of QTL mapping with next gen sequencing and reciprocal transplants with hybrid individuals in the field.

Selected Publications

Sexton, J., K.G. Ferris, and S. Schoenig. 2013. The fern-leaved monkey flower (Phyrmaceae) a new species from the northern Sierra Nevada of California. Madroño 60(3) pp.236-242

Ferris, K.G., J.P. Sexton, and J.H. Willis. Speciation of a Rare and Cryptic Granite Outcrop Specialist in the Yellow Monkey Flowers. in press The Philosphical Transactions of the Royal Society B