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Busch Lab People and Projects

Our approach

Members of the lab encourage each other to take a question-driven approach that furthers our collective understanding of evolutionary processes. Recurrent themes include population genetics, biogeography, and modes of reproduction. As we go about our work, new skills and perspectives are gained as we seek to better understand biology and the world around us.

Some current questions include:

How does environmental change influence biodiversity?

What genetic and environmental factors best explain patterns of mating within and among natural populations?

What plant traits are most likely to predict the type and activity of pollinators?

What are the most potent factors limiting the re-evolution of outcrossing in selfing populations?

What are the most general costs and benefits experienced by nascent polyploids?

Yva Eline, Jeremiah Busch, Carly Prior, Evan Hilpman, and Nathan Layman at Evolution 2017 in Portland.

Current members

Jeremiah Busch (PI)

Jeremiah received a Ph.D. from Indiana University with Lynda Delph in 2005.  After a postdoc at McGill University with Daniel Schoen, he joined WSU in 2008.  Jeremiah studies evolutionary processes, with a particular emphasis on traits that impact the expression of genetic variation in populations.

Evan Hilpman (Ph.D. student)

Evan is a sixth year doctoral candidate interested in plant-pollinator interactions, volatile organic compounds, and their consequences. He is studying multiple species in the genus Castilleja.

Carly Prior (Ph.D. student)

Carly is a sixth year doctoral candidate interested in associations between geographic range position and outcrossing rates in natural populations. She is also studying the influence of colonization on population genetic structure in American bellflower.

Shelby Tisinai (Ph.D. student)

Shelby is in her second year, and is studying the consequences of gene expression variation in the face of climate change. She is studying Cardamine cordifolia, a species distributed on a steep elevational gradient in the Rockies.

Jordan Rainbow (M.S. student)

Jordan is in his third year studying the mechanisms underlying ecological differentiation between diploids and polyploids in natural populations. He is investigating populations of mountain big sagebrush.


After completing their research at WSU, alumni of the lab have continued careers in universities, laboratories, conservation settings, and beyond. Success in these diverse venues is made possible through open-minded immersion in the process of science and the dissemination of work in talks and papers.

Postdocs and Graduate students

Nathan Layman (Ph.D. 2018, Postdoc 2018)

Nathan studied the evolution of self-fertilization with a focus on non-equilibrium populations. This work involved a combination of empirical and theoretical approaches. He has joined Scott Nuismer’s lab at the University of Idaho as a postdoc.

Dena Grossenbacher (Postdoc 2015-2016)

Dena studied how reproductive traits (such as mating system!) influence species geographic distributions and co-occurrences. She is now an Assistant Professor at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Visit her webpage.

Fernando Villanea (Ph.D. 2016)

Fernando worked on demographic inference and ancient DNA. Fernando worked extensively with Dr. Brian Kemp (now at University of Oklahoma) during his time at WSU. Fernando currently works as a postdoc with Emilia Huerta-Sanchez at Brown University, and will start as an Assistant Professor in the Anthropology Department at CU Boulder in January, 2021.

Andrea Dixon (Ph.D. 2014)

Andrea studied environmental and genetic constraints on species ranges and their effects on plant diversity. Andrea is currently a research associate in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University.

Nicholas Norton (M.S. 2014)

Nick studied character displacement of flower color in a pair of Leavenworthia species. Nick is currently Executive Director for the Washington Association of Land Trusts.

Michael Joseph (M.S. 2012)

Michael studied limits on seed production in a rare, self-incompatible plant (Physaria filiformis). Michael went on to work for the Missouri Department of Conservation.


Undergraduate students

Ty Berven explored S-allele dominance hierarchies.  This work helped to frame our work on S-allele dominance interactions and to understand selection on S-linked mutational load.

Jennifer Darnell studied polymorphism and divergence between Leavenworthia stylosa and its highly selfing sister species, Leavenworthia torulosa.

Karst Downey studied flower color evolution and worked to infer the rate of hybridization between two Leavenworthia species, one of which experiences character displacement.

Ashley Edwardson worked on DNA sequence variation across the range of the endemic species Mimulus bicolor.

Yva Eline conducted molecular biological experiments to estimate outcrossing rates in Leavenworthia alabamica and Campanula americana. Yva currently works at the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (WADDL).

Lena Gunn was an undergraduate McNair Scholar at WSU. She studied patterns of mating in a population of Leavenworthia alabamica that recently lost self-incompatibility. She received a forensic sciences degree in Boston.

Rebecca Mitchell canvassed the literature to study variation in ploidy and its association with self-incompatibility in Brassicaceae.

Austyn Orvis conducted field work across the range of Campanula americana, where she studied patterns of pathogen and pollinator abundance. Austyn currently works at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

Brian Reidy perfected our protocol for single-strand conformation polymorphism to sequence S-alleles in Leavenworthia.  Brian is currently studying medicine.

Megan Deffe (nee Thompson) was a UBM-sponsored undergraduate who sequenced S-alleles throughout the genus LeavenworthiaShe found a total collapse of S-allele diversity in all the selfing taxa.

William Werner was a research assistant involved in a number of research projects. He spent much of his time studying population structure and its genetic consequences in Leavenworthia uniflora.

Tyler Witthuhn was a UBM-sponsored undergraduate who modeled the dynamic relationship between pollinator service and population extinction in self-incompatible species.