A major goal of evolutionary biology is to understand the processes that lead to biological diversity, both within and between species. Of particular interest is evaluating the role of natural selection in the creation of species from diverging populations. Addressing these goals entails investigating fundamental aspects of evolutionary biology such as: determining the genetic basis of adaptation, deciphering the role of migration and genetic drift during the evolution of traits, quantifying the strength of selection acting on adaptive alleles, and untangling the mechanisms driving selection.
Research in the Hopkins lab at the Arnold Arboretum examines speciation in plants, with predominant focus on the role of hybridization during species formation. Most research centers around reinforcement, the process in which reduced hybrid fitness generates selection for the evolution of reproductive isolation between emerging species. The lab takes an interdisciplinary approach that incorporates functional molecular biology experiments, population genetic analyses, pollinator behavior trials, and field reciprocal transplant experiments.