Robin Hopkins


Robin Hopkins

Assistant Professor, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology

1300 Centre Street
Boston, MA 02131
Fax: 617.384.6596


PhD Biology (2010), Duke University
AB Biology (2003), Brown University

Research Interests

The process of species formation fascinates me. I am particularly interested in understanding the role of natural selection in causing diverging plant populations to become species. Pursuing this goal entails investigating fundamental questions of evolutionary biology such as: What is the genetic basis of adaptations? What is the role of migration and genetic drift during the evolution of traits? What is the strength of selection acting on an adaptive allele? And what is the mechanism underlying selection? I address these questions using an interdisciplinary approach that incorporates functional molecular biology experiments, population genetic analyses, pollinator behavior trials, and field reciprocal transplant experiments.

Much of my research has been done on the native Texas wildflower Phlox drummondii. Flower color variation in Phlox is a classic example of reinforcement, the process in which reduced hybrid fitness generates selection for the evolution of reproductive isolation between emerging species. I have begun to develop Phlox as a modern system for evolutionary and ecological genetic studies.  There is a rich knowledge of natural history and ecology in this system that is informative for designing a plethora of innovative projects. I plan to expand my studies in this system to a broad array of topics including the evolution of plant mating systems, adaptive constraints of pleiotropy, and plant-pollinator interactions.

Recent Publications

  • Hopkins, R. and M.D. Rausher. (In Press). The cost of reinforcement: Selection on flower color in allopatric populations of Phlox drummondii. The American Naturalist.
  • Hopkins, R. 2013. Reinforcement in plants. New Phytologist. 197: 1095-1103. (Winner of the 2013 Tansley Medal)
  • Hopkins, R. and M.D. Rausher. 2012. Pollinator-mediated selection on flower color allele drives reinforcement. Science 335: 1090-1092. (Featured in Current Biology Dispatch by John Pannell)
  • Hopkins, R., D.A. Levin, and M.D. Rausher. 2012. Molecular signatures of selection on reproductive character displacement of flower color in Phlox drummondii. Evolution 66:469-485.
  • Hopkins, R. and M.D. Rausher. 2011. Identification of two genes causing reinforcement in the Texas wildflower Phlox drummondii. Nature 469:411-414.