My mentor, Dr. McGaugh, focuses on how genetic inversions in fruit flies leads to speciation. She uses DNA sequencing data from different species of fruit flies to identify the presence of genetic inversions. Thus far, I have been helping Dr. McGaugh run some PCRs and have been learning some other techniques, but have not yet started a project of my own.
When I do start a project of my own, it will be related to the fruit fly Megaselia Scalaris. This species of fruit fly has not been studied extensively, and thus much remains unknown about it. Nevertheless, it is known that this species features some very interesting characteristics. I am beginning to read papers on the species so that I may develop a project idea. One interesting characteristic of Megaselia Scalaris is that there is not really a dedicated Y-chromosome. The male-determining factor has been found on different chromosomes, and even has been found to jump from one chromosome to another when a line of Megaselia Scalaris are bred in the lab. Another interesting characteristic of Megaselia Scalaris is that they are unusually tolerant of compounds that are toxic to similar insects. For example, they survived chronic exposure of high levels of Manganese and Nickel in their food, and even seemed do thrive under these conditions, with a significantly increased percentage of puparia formed that successfully eclosed under the metal treatments (2009, Sorensen et al.). Megaselia Scalaris have even been recorded as been able to survive off of paint and boot polish! I am excited to create and begin a project with these amazing creatures!