Jeffrey L. Peters, Ph.D.

Biological Sciences
Biological Sciences Bldg 204A, 3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy., Dayton, OH 45435-0001

Education History

  • Postdoctoral Fellow, 2006-2008, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK.
  • Ph.D. Biological Sciences. 2006. University of Maryland Baltimore County, Baltimore, MD.
  • M.S. Applied Ecology and Conservation Biology. 2002. Frostburg State University, Frostburg, MD.
  • B.S.Biology. 1996. Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA.

Research Statement

My research program is interdisciplinary and includes aspects of molecular and evolutionary ecology, population/community genetics, molecular evolution, and behavioral ecology. This research focuses on two primary goals: (1) to study the evolutionary histories of populations and species using DNA sequences; and (2) to study the influence of natural selection on non-coding DNA.

I use DNA sequences from multiple loci to study the history of community assembly in the Northern hemisphere. Fossil records indicate a bias in the direction of intercontinental colonization for Holarctic mammals (from Eurasia into North America), and recent genetic evidence also supports this bias for a variety of other taxonomic groups. Currently, I am studying the population genetics of five species and one species pair of ducks, each distributed across North America and Eurasia, to test for this colonization bias. Using methods based on coalescent theory, I am testing models of evolution that include population size changes, gene flow, and divergence times. These methods allow explicit tests for bottlenecks that might have been associated with a colonization event.

I also use a combination of empirical and simulated data to address two fundamental questions in population genetics: (1) how often does non-coding DNA deviate from expectations under selective neutrality; and (2) how does violating the assumption of neutrality influence inferences of evolutionary histories? Inferring evolutionary histories using DNA polymorphisms is now common practice, but many methods in population genetics (especially those based on coalescent theory) assume that the loci examined are selectively neutral. Population-level studies often focus on non-coding DNA, such as nuclear introns that are presumed to be neutral. However, selection acting directly on polymorphisms within exons can also influence closely linked introns through ‘genetic hitch-hiking’ or ‘genetic draft’. Non-neutral evolution can potentially result in serious biases in estimates of population-level parameters but has received insufficient attention in population-level studies. I am using the comparative, multilocus dataset from the six species of Holarctic ducks described above to address questions of selective neutrality.


Representative Publications

Peters, J.L., S.A. Sonsthagen, P. Lavretsky*, M. Rezsutek, W.P. Johnson, & K.G. McCracken. 2014. Interspecific hybridization contributes to high genetic diversity and apparent effective population size in an endemic population of mottled ducks (Anas fulvigula maculosa). Conservation Genetics: In Press.

Lavretsky, P.*, A. Engilis, Jr., & J.L. Peters. 2014. Major histocompatibility I gene diversity in the critically endangered Laysan duck (Anas laysanensis). Pacific Conservation Biology: In Press.

Lavretsky, P.*, K.G. McCracken, & J.L. Peters. 2014. Phylogenetics of a recent radiation in the mallards and allies (Aves: Anas): Inferences from a genomic transect and the multispecies coalescent. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 70:402-411.

Winker, K., K.G. McCracken, D.D. Gibson, & J.L. Peters. 2013. Heteropatric speciation in a duck, Anas crecca. Molecular Ecology 22:5922-5935.

Okanga, S., G.S. Cumming, P.A.R. Hockey, & J.L. Peters. 2013. Landscape structure influences avian malaria ecology in the Western Cape, South Africa. Landscape Ecology 28:2019-2028.

McCracken, K.G., R. E. Wilson, J.L. Peters, K. Winker, & A.R. Martin. 2013. Late Pleistocene colonization of South Georgia by yellow-billed pintails pre-dates the Last Glacial Maximum. Journal of Biogeography 40:2348-2360.

Okanga, S., G.S. Cumming, P.A.R. Hockey, M. Grome*, & J.L. Peters. 2013. A comparison of techniques employed in detection avian malaria infection, South Africa. African Zoology 48:309-317.

Cortes-Rodriguez, M.N., F. Jacobsen, B.E. Hernandez-Baños, A.G. Navarro-Siguenza, J.L. Peters, & K.E. Omland. 2013. Coalescent analyses show isolation without migration in two closely related tropical orioles: the case of Icterus graduacauda and Icterus chrysater. Ecology and Evolution 3:4377-4387.

Cipollini, K., K. C. Millam, D. Burks, D. Cipollini, S. Girod, Z. VanGundy, & J.L. Peters. 2013. Genetic structure of the endangered Northeastern Bulrush (Scirpus ancistrochaetus) in Pennsylvania, USA, using information from RAPD and SNPs. Biochemical Genetics 51:686-697.

DhamiK.K.*, L. Joseph, D.A. Roshier, R. Heinsohn, & J.L. Peters. 2013. Multilocus phylogeography of Australian teals (Anas spp.): a case study of the relationship between vagility and genetic structure. Journal of Avian Biology 44:169-178.

Cumming, G.S., E. Shepard*, S. Okanga, A. Caron, M. Ndlovu, & J.L. Peters. 2013. Host associations, biogeography, and phylogenetics of avian malaria in southern African waterfowl. Parasitology 140:193-201.

Wilson, R.E., J.L. Peters, & K.G. McCracken. 2013. Genetic and phenotypic divergence between high- and low-altitude populations of two recently diverged cinnamon teal subspecies. Evolution 67:170-184.

Peters, J.L., K.G. McCracken, C.L. Pruett, S. Rohwer, S.V. Drovetski, Y.N. Zhuravlev, I. Kulikova, D.D. Gibson, & K. Winker. 2012. A parapatric propensity for breeding precludes the completion of speciation in common teal (Anas crecca, sensu lato). Molecular Ecology 21:4563-4577.

Peters, J.L.K.A. Bolender*, & J.M. Pearce. 2012. Behavioral vs. molecular sources of conflict between nuclear and mitochondrial DNA: The role of male-biased dispersal in a Holarctic sea duck. Molecular Ecology 21:3562-3575.

Lavretsky, P.*, T.M. Truong*, A.E. McGowin, G.H. Balazs, & J.L. Peters. 2012. New primers reveal the presence of a duplicate histone H3 in the marine turtle leech Ozobranchus branchiatus. Conservation Genetics Resources 4:487-490.

Peters, J.L., K. Winker, & K.G. McCracken. 2012. Heterogeneity in genetic diversity among non-coding loci fails to fit neutral models of population history. PLoS One 7:e319722. 

Bulgarella, M., J.L. Peters, C. Kopuchian, T.H. Valqui, R.E. Wilson, & K.G. McCracken. 2012. Multilocus coalescent analyses reveal the effects of balancing selection of the hemoglobin variants in high altitude populations of crested ducks (Lophonetta specularioides). Molecular Ecology 21:350-368.

Wilson, R.E., M.D. Eaton, S.A. Sonsthagen, J.L. Peters, K.P. Johnson, B. Simarra, & K.G. McCracken. 2011. Speciation, subspecies divergence, and paraphyly in the Cinnamon Teal and Blue-winged Teal. Condor 113:747-761.

Bulgarella, M., M.D. Sorenson, J.L. Peters, R.E. Wilson, & K.G. McCracken. 2010. Phylogenetic relationships of AmazonettaSpeculanasLophonetta, and Tachyeres: Four morphologically divergent duck genera endemic to South America. Journal of Avian Biology 41:186-199.

Rooney, T.P., J.L. Peters, and J.L. Hays. 2010. Changes in the Sugarcreek Metropark bird community between 1978 and 2010. The Ohio Cardinal 34:30-37.

Humphries, E. M., J.L Peters, J.E. Jónsson, R. Stone, A.D. Afton, & K.E. Omland. 2009. Genetic differentiation between sympatric and allopatric wintering populations of snow geese. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 121:730-738.

McCracken, K.G., C.P. Barger, M. Bulgarella, K.P. Johnson, M.K. Kuhner, A.V. Moore, J.L. Peters., J. Trucco, T.H. Valqui, K. Winker, & R.E. Wilson. 2009. Signatures of high-altitude adaptation in the major hemoglobin of five species of Andean dabbling ducks. American Naturalist 174:631-650.

McCracken, K.G., M. Bulgarella, K.P. Johnson, M.K. Kuhner, J. Trucco, T.H. Valqui, R.E. Wilson, & J.L. Peters. 2009. Gene flow in the face of countervailing selection: adaptation to high-altitude hypoxia in the βA hemoglobin subunit of yellow-billed pintails in the Andes. Molecular Biology and Evolution 26:815-827.

Peters, J.L., Y. Zhuravlev, I. Fefelov, E.M. Humphries, & K.E. Omland. 2008. Multilocus phylogeography of a Holarctic duck: colonization of North America from Eurasia by gadwalls (Anas strepera). Evolution 62:1469-1483.

Kondo, B., J.L. Peters, B.B. Rosensteel, & K.E. Omland. Coalescent analyses of multiple loci support a new route to speciation in birds. Evolution 62:1182-1191.

Peters, J.L., Y. Zhuravlev, I. Fefelov, A. Logie, & K.E. Omland. 2007. Nuclear loci and coalescent methods support ancient hybridization as cause of mitochondrial paraphyly between gadwall and falcated duck (Anas spp.). Evolution 61:1992-2006.

Peters, J.L., & K.E. Omland. 2007. Population structure and mitochondrial polyphyly in North American gadwalls (Anas strepera). Auk 124:444-462.

Omland, K.E., J.M. Baker, & J.L. Peters. 2006. Genetic signatures of intermediate divergence: population history of Old and New World Holarctic ravens (Corvus corax). Molecular Ecology 15:795-808.

Peters, J.L., W. Gretes, &K.E. Omland. 2005. Late Pleistocene divergence between eastern and western populations of wood ducks (Aix sponsa) inferred by the ‘isolation with migration’ coalescent method. Molecular Ecology 14:3407-3418.

Peters, J.L., K.G. McCracken, Y.N. Zhuravlev, Y. Lu, R.E. Wilson, K.P. Johnson, & K.E. Omland. 2005. Phylogenetics of wigeons and allies (Anatidae: Anas): the importance of sampling multiple loci and multiple individuals. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 35:209-224.

Peters, J.L., G.L. Brewer, & L.M. Bowe. 2003. Extrapair paternity and breeding synchrony in gadwalls (Anas strepera) in North Dakota. Auk 120:883-888.

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