In an effort to understand how diversity is created and maintained, I study rapid evolution. How do evolutionary processes interact to drive rapid adaptation to new and changing environments? To address this fundamental question, I use multiple study systems, both field and laboratory approaches, and integrative tools.
Check out some of my current research questions below!
How do sexual signals evolve?
With collaborator Robin Tinghitella, I’m tackling this big question using a new sexual signal that we recently discovered in a field cricket. Males call to attract females, and the acoustic signal is shaped by intended receivers (female crickets) and unintended receivers (parasitoid flies). Our newly discovered signal sounds a bit like a purr, so we named them purring crickets. This discovery offers an unprecedented opportunity to observe the evolution of a signal in real time–we are tracking how the signal (male song) and selective forces change over time (Tinghitella et al. 2018).
What is the role of phenotypic plasticity in rapid evolution?
We can use experimental introductions to study rapid evolution to novel environments. The Trinidadian guppy is a small freshwater fish that exhibits phenotypic plasticity as well as rapid evolution in response to changes in the environment, namely changes in the predator community. We transplanted guppies to new locations with new selective pressures and used common garden quantitative genetics experiments to investigate the role of the environment (plasticity) in the early stages of adaptation for traits like cerebral laterality, genitalia, foraging behavior, personality, and mating behavior in guppies (Broder and Angeloni 2014; Westrick et al. 2019; Broder et al. In Revision).
Can we use developmental plasticity to increase survival in sport and threatened fishes?
We are using our understanding of how genes and the environment shape phenotypes to try to increase the survival of hatchery fish after they are stocked in Colorado. My mentee Chris Kopack is the brains and brawn behind this research, and he has already learned a lot about how we can increase antipredator behavior in rainbow trout by exposing them to chemical cues of predation in the hatchery (Kopack et al. 2015 and 2016).
How does conducting and presenting scientific research affect self-efficacy and interest in science careers?
I worked with a Latinx community in Colorado for 9 years to explore the relationship between authentic science, especially dissemination of research, and students’ self-efficacy (confidence in their ability to conduct science) and interest in pursuing careers in science. My partner in this work is Katie Guilbert and our collaborators include Lisa Angeloni, Cameron Ghalambor, Shannon Murphy, and Robin Tinghitella (Broder et al. 2019).
Can we use inquiry approaches to improve evolution education?
I worked closely with a group of fabulous middle school science teachers and Dr. Cameron Ghalambor to develop and implement a week long program to teach evolution by natural selection. The program was so successful that I worked with Dr. Emily Kane and the CSU College of Natural Science Education and Outreach Center to make it into a kit. By packaging our weeklong program into a 2-hour self-guided inquiry kit with live animals, we have been able to provide an amazing resource to a much broader audience–anyone able to come to CSU is welcome to schedule a kit session at the CSU College of Natural Science Education and Outreach Center (Broder et al. 2018, Kane et al. 2018; Broder and Kane 2017). I also use the kit in my courses at St. Ambrose University.
How does gene flow affect local adaptation?
I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with some very bright minds that are tackling important questions about the effects of gene flow on local adaptation in the wild: Dr. Sarah Fitzpatrick, John Kronenberger, Dr. Chris Funk, Dr. Lisa Angeloni (Fitzpatrick et al. 2016 and 2017; Kronenberger et al. 2016, 2017, and 2018).
Can a summer camp increase participation in STEM for girls of color?
Women are less likely to pursue majors and careers in STEM than men, and research suggests that these differences begin in childhood and adolescence because of stereotypes and lower self confidence for girls. This is exacerbated for women of color. STEM summer camps may increase self-confidence and interest in STEM. Our research takes a close look at how girls experience a STEM camp at the University of Denver so that we can improve our camp, but also so that we can offer recommendations on how to maximize effectiveness for other girls’ STEM camps with the ultimate goal of increasing the number of historically underrepresented women in science. (collaborators: Kirsten Fetrow, Shannon Murphy, Robin Tinghitella, and Jennifer Hoffman; Broder and Fetrow et al. In revision).