Megan Ruffley received my PhD from the University of Idaho in the spring of 2020 where her dissertation focused on the phylogeographic history of plants in the disjunct Pacific Northwest Rainforest. This research also investigated the dynamics of how a community responds to dramatic climatic changes, and whether species-specific responses are idiosyncratic or in concert.

In Megan Ruffley's postdoc research she is investigating the phenomenon that a genetic mutation can affect multiple traits, or pleiotropy. Pleiotropy is often considered a critical barrier to adaptation, an idea dates back to the early 20th century with Fisher’s Geometric Model and is still used by geneticists to explain the cost of complexity of organisms or aging. However, recent advances in constructing a genotype-to-phenotype map from experimental data suggest that pleiotropy is limited amongst functionally related phenotypes and may not always be detrimental to adaptation. However, we still do not understand the role of pleiotropy in complex organisms such as plants in nature. She plans to study pleiotropy with the 1001 Genomes (1001genomes.org) and Phenomes (arapheno.1001genomes.org) of Arabidopsis thaliana to understand its functional causes and ultimate consequences to adaptation in natural environments. This knowledge is essential if we hope to successfully breed plant traits from genome editing technology and avoid unintended consequences that could lead to maladapted organisms in future climates. Additionally, our better understanding of mutational effects will enhance the power we have to predict adaptation, which has broad implications for agriculture and conservation biology.