Genetic isolation by wind

[PAPER] Global wind patterns shape genetic differentiation, asymmetric gene flow, and genetic diversity in trees.

PNAS figure 2

I’m excited to finally share a piece of my dissertation work that’s just been published in PNAS. This study is the first to demonstrate that the geography of wind currents shapes large-scale genetic patterns across the world’s forests. We show that there are multiple facets to this phenomenon, with wind speeds shaping genetic differentiation, and wind directionality shaping both directional gene flow and genetic diversity. This work has interesting implications for landscape genetics and other domains of spatial ecology. More importantly in my opinion, it is also highly relevant to biodiversity management under global environmental change, as it implies particular patterns of vulnerability and resilience to climate change and habitat fragmentation.

Beyond the ecological questions, this project was also quite a fun challenge on the data science side. We harvested landscape genetic data from Dryad for almost a hundred tree species, integrated it with decades of hourly wind data using a geospatial wind connectivity modeling framework that I created, and tested it using a novel hierarchical Mantel test I developed. I also had a lot of fun with the graphics.

To learn more about the project, you can check out our paper, our windscape R library, and our wind connectivity web app.

PNAS figure 1