Jeffrey McKinnon


Life Sciences & Biotechnology Building 3420

McKinnon Lab


  • Ph.D., Dept. of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, 1994
  • M.Sc., Zoology (Marine Ecology), University of Guelph, Canada, 1988
  • B.Sc., Honors Zoology, University of British Columbia, Canada, 1984

Research Interests

  1. The Evolution of Female Display Traits and Sexual Dimorphism: In the course of another project we noticed that many female sticklebacks at one British Columbia site had conspicuous red throats, and we became interested in the evolution of such traits. This is currently the main project for students in my laboratory. This work has involved behavioral experiments on mate choice and intra-sexual interactions; comparative work on hormones, color and behavior; QTL analyses (part of Lengxob Yong’s PhD work), studies of gene expression, and currently a GWAS study with over 140 individual genomes (some of Lucas Cortes’s PhD work). This project has also morphed into a more integrative study of stickleback color pattern dimorphism, with Chris Anderson now looking at the function of pelvic spine coloration and the histology of color pattern divergence and convergence.
  2. Color Polymorphism Maintenance and Speciation: We have been conducting theoretical, synthetic and empirical work on the maintenance of color polymorphisms and their potential contribution to speciation. Our empirical work has focused mainly on the telmatherinid fishes of Sulawesi’s Malili Lakes (Indonesia). I feel particularly connected to this place because I first started traveling there as a teenager, to visit two of my uncles who were working at a Canadian mine in the area. I have also been involved in conservation efforts there. Suzanne Gray did a very nice Ph.D. on this system (at Simon Fraser University, British Columbia) with Larry Dill and myself as her co-advisors. We are not currently collecting data in Indonesia but synthetic work continues.
  3. Innovation in Post-Secondary Science Education: Some years ago I was funded by NSF’s CCLI program to develop an inquiry-driven Introductory Biology laboratory sequence and I have been involved in working to advance science pedagogy since that time. Lately, this has involved collaborations (with Pat Harris, ECU) on field-intensive travel-study versions of Introductory Biology laboratories, which I hope to make international shortly, and training graduate students in the mentoring of undergraduate researchers.


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