Diana Bernal


Diana Bernal

Visiting Fellow

1300 Centre Street
Boston, MA 02131
Phone: 617.384.5631
Fax: 617.384.6596


PhD Evolutionary Biology (2015), The University of Queensland, Australia
BA Biology (2003), Los Andes University, Colombia

Research Interests

I have broad research interests that intersect on how phenotypic diversification occurs. On one hand, I am interested in what are the general characteristics of the genetic basis of phenotypic variation. Different characteristics of a genetic change affect its likelihood to persist in nature or to disappear; however their precise effects remain under debate. For instance, does phenotypic variation more often involve many genes of small phenotypic effect or a few genes of large effect? Or are new mutations more likely to underlie phenotypic diversification than standing genetic variation? As a graduate student I characterized genetic changes potentially underlying natural leaf shape variation of Senecio lautus, a herbaceous plant endemic to Australia, to determine the prevalence of new mutations vs. standing genetic variation among these genetic changes, and their likelihood to respond to natural selection in controlled transplant experiments.

On the other hand, I am also interested in the molecular mechanisms underlying phenotypic traits. Therefore, as a graduate student I also investigated what are the potential molecular mechanisms mediating leaf diversification in S. lautus according to gene expression patterns, and currently, I will investigate what are the developmental mechanisms underlying variation of the reproductive mode in the Brachiaria decumbensB. ruziziensisB. brizantha complex, as a visiting researcher at the Arnold Arboretum.