Dr Sonya Clegg

Research Interests

A common thread to my research is to increase understanding of the evolutionary processes that promote divergence in wild vertebrate systems. I use a variety of methodologies to answer questions about processes of genetic, morphological and ecological/behavioural differentiation.

Three current research areas are: 

1) Processes that generate biodiversity in archipelago systems 

I am interested in the processes that both promote and inhibit the generation of biodiversity and I examine these processes using avian systems in South Pacific region, primarily New Caledonia and Vanuatu. I integrate information on population genetic, phylogenetic variation, morphological and ecological variation and host-pathogen interactions (avian malaria), to understand the microevolutionary processes that underlie population divergence and how this may lead to incipient speciation.

2) Dynamics of natural selection in wild populations

I study the temporal dynamics of natural selection in an individually colour-ringed population of silvereyes (Zosterops lateralis chlorocephalus) Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia to understand the nature of phenotypic evolution. This population has been studied since the 1960’s, and application of modelling techniques applied to the long-term dataset along with on-going collection of individual-based data allows insight into potential responses to changing environmental conditions. 

3) Genomics of divergence in island colonizing birds

Island colonizing birds often appear to undergo rapid divergence. Members of the Zosteropidae family provide an ideal system to examine genomic patterns of divergence associated with island colonisation across a spectrum of known population ages. I am applying genomic approaches to understand this rapid divergence, with a current focus on understanding genetic underpinnings of changes in dispersal tendencies.

Contact Details

Selected Publications

Siepielski A, MB Morrissey, M Buoro, SM Carlson, CM Caruso, SM Clegg, T Coulson, J DiBattista, KM Gotanda, CD Francis, J Hereford, JG Kingsolver, KE Augustine, LEB Kruuk, RA Martin, BC Sheldon, N Sletvold, EI Svensson, MJ Wade, ADC MacColl (2017) Precipitation drives global variation in natural selection. Science. 355:959-962

Clark NJ, K Wells, D Dimitrov, SM Clegg (2016) Co-infections and environmental conditions drive the distributions of blood parasites in wild birds. Journal of Animal Ecology. 85:1461-1470.

Potvin, DA, SM Clegg (2015) The relative roles of cultural drift and acoustic adaptation in shaping syllable repertoires of island bird populations change with time since colonization. Evolution 69(2):368-380.

Clark NJ, SM Clegg (2015) The influence of vagrant hosts and weather patterns on the colonization and persistence of blood parasites in an island bird. J. Biogeography 42:641-651.

Clegg SM, AB Phillimore (2010) The influence of gene flow and drift on genetic and phenotypic divergence in two species of Zosterops in Vanuatu. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B 365 (1543):1077-1092. 

Clegg SM, DF Frentiu, J Kikkawa, G Tavecchia and IPF Owens (2008) 4000 years of phenotypic change in an island bird: heterogeneity of selection over three microevolutionary timescales. Evolution 62, 2393-2410.

Phillimore AB, IPF Owens, RA Black, J Chittock, T Burke and SM Clegg (2008) Complex patterns of genetic and phenotypic divergence in an island bird and the consequences for delimiting conservation units. Molecular Ecology 17, 2839-2853.

Clegg SM, SM Degnan, J Kikkawa, C Moritz, A Estoup and IPF Owens (2002) Genetic consequences of sequential founder events by an island-colonizing bird. Proceedings of the National Academy Sciences USA 99, 8127-8123

List of site pages