Our global freshwater resources are essential for the health of human society because everyone needs clean drinking water. Freshwater gastropods, more commonly known as snails, are intergral components of healthy rivers and streams. The most important tool in conserving snails is information about these fascinating animals. I study evolution of gastropods, with a focus on the freshwater families Pleuroceridae and Semisulcospiridae. My work includes phylogenetics, genome sequencing, and life history studies. My research on freshwater snails is used to improve conservation efforts.
Genetic diversity is important for the survival of animal species. Understanding the genetics of animals at risk of extinction is also important for effective conservation. My lab studies how populations are related, estimates genetic diversity of different populations, and makes management recommendations based on our findings. We are currently working on conservation genetic studies of Lake Sturgeon, Stripped Bass, Sicklefin Redhorse, and a variety of freshwater snails and mussels.
I am broadly interested in how different animals groups are realted and what traits have contributed to animal diversification. I study this at a variety of scales ranging from all of Metazoa to freshwater snail species in the family Pleuroceridae. Recent work has focused on Comb Jellies, or ctenophores, and freshwater snails, including evolution of egg-laying behaviours.
Modern genetics research requires a considerable amount of computational biology. Part of my lab's research includes designing novel bioinformatics pipelines. We also study the performance of different phylogenetic methods in an effort to determine which models and methods can provide the most accurate estimation of relationships.
Tassia, M.G., N.V. Whelan, K.M. Halanych. (2017) Toll-like receptor pathway evolution in deuterostomes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 114: 7055–7060. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1617722114.
Costa-Paiva E.M., N.V. Whelan, D.S. Waits, S. Santos, C.G. Schrago, K.M. Halanych. (2017) Discovery and evolution of novel hemerythrin genes in annelid worms. BMC Evolutionary Biology. 17: 85. doi:10.1186/s12862-017-0933-z.
Whelan, N.V., K.M. Halanych. (2017) Who let the CAT Out of the Bag? Accurately dealing with substitutional heterogeneity in phylogenomics. Systematic Biology. 66: 232-255. doi:10.1093/sysbio/syw084.
Johnson, P.D., A.E. Bogan, K.M. Brown, N.M. Burkhead, J.R. Cordeiro, J.T. Garner, P.D. Hartfield, D.A. Lepitzki, G.L. Mackie, E. Pip, T.A. Tarpley, J.S. Tiemann, N.V. Whelan, E.E. Strong. (2013) Conservation status of freshwater gastropods of Canada and the United States. Fisheries. 38: 247-282. doi:10.1080/03632415.2013.785396. (pdf)
Whelan, N.V., A. Geneva, D.L. Graf. (2011) Molecular phylogenetic analysis of tropical freshwater mussels (Mollusca: Bivalvia: Unionoida) resolves the position of Coelatura and supports a monophyletic Unionidae. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 61:504-514. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2011.07.016. (pdf)