My research is focused on understanding the processes that promote population divergence and speciation, with a particular interest in local adaptation in natural populations of birds. This requires an integrative research program designed to approach these questions from several interrelated perspectives. In my research, I strive to unite population genetic and phylogenetic analyses with emerging genomic technologies and databases to study the genetic basis of functionally important traits that vary among populations and contribute to local adaptation.
Much of my current research focuses on the genetics of high-altitude adaptation in Andean birds. In this work, I make use of field collections of museum specimens, that I study using population genetic, phylogenetic, and morphometric analyses to characterize patterns of geographic variation and to place these patterns within temporal and demographic contexts. I combine these data with microarray and quantitative PCR analyses of genomic gene expression profiles to identify genes and biochemical pathways that contribute to local adaptation to different altitudinal environments.I have recently begun to extend my work on high-altitude adaptation to species with broad altitudinal distributions in the Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountains. I am also beginning to apply this research framework to the genetics of other adaptive traits in birds, including bill size and shape polymorphisms.
Cheviron, Z.A. & R.T. Brumfield. 2009. Molecular adaptation to high-elevation in Rufous-collared Sparrows (Zonotrichia capensis): variation in metabolic gene expression along an extreme elevational gradient in the Peruvian Andes. In review.
Uy, J.A.C., R.G. Moyle, C.E. Filardi, & Z.A. Cheviron. Difference in plumage color used in species recognition between incipient species is linked to a single amino acid substitution in the melanocortin-1 receptor. American Naturalist 174:244-254. *selected by the Faculty of 1000.
Cheviron, Z.A., & R.T. Brumfield. Migration-selection balance and local adaptation of mitochondrial haplotypes in Rufous-collared Sparrows (Zonotrichia capensis) along an elevational gradient. Evolution 63:1593-1605.
Cheviron, Z.A., A. Whitehead & R.T. Brumfield. 2008. Transcriptomic variation and plasticity in Rufous-collared Sparrows (Zonotrichia capensis) along an altitudinal gradient. Molecular Ecology 17:4556-4569.
Brumfield, R.T., J.G. Tello, Z.A. Cheviron, M.D. Carling & N. Crochet. 2007. Phylogenetic conservatism and antiquity of a tropical specialization: army-ant-following in the typical antbirds (Thamnophilidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 45:1-13.
Cheviron, Z.A., S.J. Hackett & R.T. Brumfield. 2006. Sequence variation in the coding region of the melanocortin-1receptor gene (MC1R) is not associated with plumage polymorphism in the Blue-crowned Manakin (Lepidothrix coronata). Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B 273:1613-1618.
Cheviron, Z.A., S.J. Hackett, and A.P. Capparella. 2005. Complex evolutionary history of a Neotropical lowland forest bird (Lepidothrix coronata) and its implications for historical hypotheses of the origin of Neotropical avian diversity. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 36:338-357.Cheviron, Z.A. A.P. Capparella, and F. Vuilleumier. 2005. Molecular phylogenetic relationships among the Geositta miners (Aves: Furnariidae) and biogeographic implications for avian speciation in Fuego-Patagonia. Auk 122:158-174.