The Hufbauer Lab studies evolutionary ecology, or rapid evolution that occurs on time scales that can impact ecological processes. For example, the persistence of plant or animal species under new or changing environmental conditions depends upon whether or not the populations are able to adapt to the conditions present in their habitats. However, competition for resources, habitat connectivity, and other ecological processes can also impact population survival and reproduction – these tradeoffs are what shape the field of evolutionary ecology.
My research focuses on the conservation and management of small or declining populations. I use a small beetle, the red flour beetle (Tribolium castaneum), as a model system, as it can be very expensive and often logistically and ethically difficult to study these types of populations in the wild. Flour beetles are historic pests of stored grains such as wheat and rice, but they have been cultivated for use in experimental evolution studies for several decades because they are easy to rear and have a short life cycle, allowing for experiments that span multiple generations.