Dr. David Field

Assistant Professor

A central focus of evolutionary biology is to understand the origin and maintenance of biodiversity. To better understand how populations adapt and split into new species, we require knowledge on the genetic changes involved, as well as the strengths of ecological and evolutionary processes needed to generate and maintain variation across the genome.

Our research focuses on a range of topics related to plant ecology and evolution including local adaptation, speciation and mating systems. We primarily study the ecological and genetic mechanisms underlying reproductive isolation and speciation in the genus Antirrhinum (snapdragons). This is a uniquely tractable system that allows the integration of molecular genetics, population genomics and ecological studies in the wild to get at the agents and mechanisms of selection. The genus displays remarkable variation in life history traits, habitat and flower colour and yet the species remain interfertile. Some of questions we are addressing:

1) what are the forces that generate and maintain variation within and among populations and species?

2) what can spatial patterns in phenotypic and genetic variation tell us about divergent selection and where it operates in the genome?

3) what is the structure of the fitness landscape and how does this change with local ecological context?

4) what are the limits of inference of signatures of selection from patterns in genomic data?

We use an integrative approach including manipulative experiments in the field (on plants and pollinators), quantitative genetics, bioinformatics and genomic analysis, comparative meta-analysis and theory to answer these questions and investigate processes from micro- to macro-evolutionary time scales.

Other topics we work on in the lab are more applied such as genetic rescue, and developing new methods for population genetic and genomic analyses for spatial data and polyploids.


AutoPoly: population assignment and parentage for autopolyploids.

FastClines: rapid geographic cline approximation for spatially explicit sequence data.

SlowClines: Maximum Likelihood cline fitting accounting for population structure.

SlidingWindows: genome scans for diversity and divergence for PoolSeq data

Software available at: https://github.com/dfield007

Potential students and postdocs. If these topics interest you and you want to get involved, read more below and contact me:

e-mail: david.field[@]univie.ac.at

phone:  +43 1 4277 54134

address: Department of Botany and Biodiversity Research
University of Vienna, Faculty of Life Sciences
Rennweg 14, Room 216
A-1030 Vienna

Selected Publications

  • Tavares H, Whibley A, Field DL et al., (2018). Selection and gene flow shape genomic islands that control floral guides. Proceedings of the National Academy of Scienceshttps://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1801832115
  • Ringbauer H, Kolesnikov, A, Field DL, Barton NH (2018). Estimating barriers to gene flow from distorted isolation by distance patterns. Genetics. 10.1534/genetics.117.300638. Featured March 2018 highlight. 
  • Bradley D, Xu P, Mohorianu I-I, Whibley A, Field DL, Tavares H, et al. (2017). Evolution of flower color pattern through selection on regulatory small RNAs. Science 358: 925–928. 10.1126/science.aao3526
  • Ellis TJ, Field DL (2016). Repeated gains in yellow and anthocyanin pigmentation in flower colour transitions in the Antirrhineae. Ann Bot 117: 1133–1140.
  • Field DL, Broadhurst LM, Elliott CP, Young AG (2017). Population assignment in autopolyploids. Heredity 119: hdy201751.
  • Field DL, Pickup M, Barrett SCH (2013). Comparative Analyses of Sex-Ratio Variation in Dioecious Flowering Plants. Evolution 67: 661–672.

News (publications, conferences, field work etc..)

08.10.2018 - Our new article from the A-Team just released in PNAS: "Selection and gene flow shape genomic islands that control floral guides" http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2018/10/04/1801832115

01.06.2018 - A new article from the SI team (led by Katarína Boďová & Melinda Pickup), theoretical adventures to solve some of the puzzles around the evolution and maintenance of self incompatibility in Genetics "Evolutionary Pathways for the Generation of New Self-Incompatibility Haplotypes in a Non-self Recognition System" www.genetics.org/content/early/2018/04/30/genetics.118.300748.long

01.04.2018 - Our manuscript from the A-Team (led by Tom Ellis) outlining a new (and speedy) method to assign sibships using SNP data in Molecular Ecology Resources "Efficient inference of paternity and sibships given known maternity via hierarchical clustering. onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1755-0998.12782

01.03.2018 - A new article (led by Harald Ringbauer) from our A-Team collective outlining our new method to detect genome wide barriers and application to Snapdragons in Genetics "Estimating barriers to gene flow from distorted isolation by distance patterns". http://www.genetics.org/content/208/3/1231. Featured March 2018 highlight.

17.11.2017 - An article on our Snapdragon paper has appeared in New York Times. "How snapdragons beckon bees with more than one colour": https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/17/science/snapdragons-colors-genes.html

17.11.2017 - Snapdragon paper out in Science. Well done everybody! "Evolution of flower colour pattern through selection on regulatory small RNAs" http://science.sciencemag.org/content/358/6365/925

01.09.2017 - Polyploid theory paper is out in Heredity "Population assignment in autopolyploids" https://www.nature.com/articles/hdy201751