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Faculty Spotlight: Loren Cassin Sackett

Loren Cassin Sackett

Loren Cassin Sackett, PhD, joined the Department of Biology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette as an assistant professor in August 2019. Last year (2018-2019), she was a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Biology. Originally from Colorado, she received a B.A. in Psychology from Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA, and went on to earn a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado in 2012. Following this, Dr. Cassin Sackett received a postdoctoral fellowship at the Smithsonian National Zoo, where she spent three years before becoming an Assistant Professor at the University of South Florida in 2016.

Our research focuses on the processes driving evolutionary diversity across spatial and temporal scales. In particular, much of our current work focuses on novel (e.g., introduced) pathogens that exert strong selection on naive hosts. This strong selection can either lead to reductions in host diversity or elicit adaptation. For instance, the pathogen causing avian malaria (Plasmodium relictum) was recently introduced to Hawaii and subsequently caused the rapid decline of native honeycreeper species, including several extinctions. However, some species have recently begun to evolve tolerance to the pathogen. Similarly, the bacterium causing bubonic plague (Yersinia pestis) was accidentally introduced to western North America, evoking dramatic declines in prairie dog populations. Recently, some individuals have demonstrated resistance to the pathogen, but resistance has not become widespread across the species' ranges. We are investigating the genomic underpinnings of this rapid adaptation to pathogens, and exploring the constraints on adaptation. The observation that only a few honeycreeper species have evolved malaria tolerance, and a small number of prairie dogs exhibit plague resistance, suggests that genetic, ecological, and/or spatiotemporal constraints exist on adaptation to pathogens. We combine field and lab approaches with genomic and bioinformatic tools to understand evolution in complex disease systems.

Contact Dr. Cassin Sackett or learn more through these links:
Loren Cassin Sackett's biology department page
Loren Cassin Sackett's lab site
Loren Cassin Sackett's Google Scholar site
Loren Cassin Sackett's ResearchGate site