Carol Eunmi Lee

Position title: Professor


Phone: 608-262-2675

Integrative Biology
Rapid Evolutionary responses to global change, including biological invasions, climate, and pollution. Genetic architecture of invasive species, functional ecological and evolutionary genomics

420 Birge Hall
Ph.D., University of Washington (1998), Postdoctoral Research: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC-San Diego
Lab Website
Integrative Biology
Research Interests
Genetic architecture of invasive species; evolutionary physiology; functional ecological and evolutionary genomics; niche evolution; speciation, metagenomics of the copepod microbiome
Research Fields
Molecular Ecology, Molecular Evolution, Evolutionary Physiology, Comparative Genomics

Research Description:
Research in the Lee Laboratory focuses on evolutionary responses to catastrophic environmental change, including biological invasions, climate change, and pollution (e.g. oil spills). Our research integrates evolutionary genetics/genomics and physiology in an ecological context in order to gain core insights into mechanisms that enable expansions into novel niches. Our approaches integrate all hierarchical levels of biological organization, exploring molecular genetic mechanisms underlying niche evolution, in order to understand biogeographical patterns at oceanographic scales in nature.

Much of the research centers on physiological and evolutionary mechanisms of adaptation during habitat change. For instance, many invaders into freshwater habitats originate from more saline environments, much more than expected based on transport opportunity of propagule pressure. Such invaders originally from saline environments include zebra and quagga mussels. In addition, habitat salinity is changing throughout the globe due to climate change. For instance, in high latitude environments, coastal waters are becoming fresher due to enormous volumes of ice melt and increases in precipitation. What mechanisms allow only some populations to cross biogeographic boundaries into such radically different environments, when most cannot?

Current research projects include: (1) genomic mechanisms underlying adaptation associated with radical habitat change, (2) mechanisms of physiological evolution during habitat shifts, and (3) metagenomics of the microbial assemblage associated with the invading host. Most projects use the copepod Eurytemora affinis species complex as a model system. Other projects have examined other taxa crossing habitat boundaries, including other arthropods, molluscs, and fish. The copepod Eurytemora affinis complex presents a valuable model system because of our genomic resources (full genome sequences from multiple clades), short generation times, and ease of culturing that enables laboratory evolution experiments.

This copepod is among the most common and abundant metazoan species in coastal habitats, supporting major fisheries, such as salmon, herring, and anchovy.

Representative Publications:
See list of Carol Lee’s publications

Stern DB, NW Anderson, JA Diaz, CE Lee. 2022. Genome-wide signatures of synergistic epistasis during parallel adaptation in a Baltic Sea copepod. Nature Communications. 13:4024.

Stern, DB, CE Lee. 2020. Evolutionary origins of genomic adaptations in an invasive copepod. Nature Ecology and Evolution.

Thomas GWC, E Dohmen, DST Hughes et al. 2020. Gene content evolution in arthropods. Genome Biology. 21:15.

Eyun, S, HY Soh, M Posavi, et al. 2017. Evolutionary history of chemosensory-related gene families across the Arthropoda. Molecular Biology and Evolution. 34:1838-1862.

Lee, CE.  2016. Evolutionary mechanisms of habitat invasions, using the copepod Eurytemora affinis as a model system. Evolutionary Applications. 9: 248-270.

Posavi, M, GW Gelembiuk, B Larget, CE Lee.  2014. Testing for beneficial reversal of dominance during salinity shifts in the invasive copepod Eurytemora affinis, and implications for the maintenance of genetic variation. Evolution. 68:3166-3183.

Lee, CE, GW Gelembiuk.  2008.  Evolutionary origins of invasive populations.  Evolutionary Applications. 1:427-448.