Biological invasions are a leading cause of biodiversity decline and incur massive costs on the global economy each year. To effectively prevent new invasions, we must be able to quickly identify vectors and pathways of species introductions. Similarly, to manage ongoing invasions, we must understand how invasive species succeed in new areas of introduction. This is important not only from a management perspective, but also from a basic science standpoint, because biological invasions are global-scale natural experiments that can teach us about how populations cope with a rapidly changing environment.

Contemporary evolution, which can be substantial on time scales of just months or years, is known to contribute to invasive species success. For example, introduced individuals may hybridize with genetically divergent members of their species or with members of a different species that occur in the novel range. Such hybridization events can produce high-performing genotypes, which can then outcompete and replace native taxa. Similarly, natural selection in the novel range can lead to the adaptive evolution of traits that accelerate the competitive ability and rate of spread of invasive genotypes (see Bock et al. 2015 for a review of genetic and evolutionary mechanisms of invasion success).

My research makes use of genomic data to clarify vectors and pathways of invasive species introductions, and to understand the contribution of contemporary evolution to the success of biological invasions. To achieve this, I often combine genomic data with trait data obtained from common gardens. This allows me to identify traits that drive invasion success, and to infer whether extreme vales at these traits are a result of phenotypic plasticity or genetic changes and adaptive evolution (e.g. Bock et al. 2018). By combining genomic data with quantifications of the morphology and physiology of invasive species, I am also able to study the genetic architecture of invasiveness traits, and the extent to which evolution of invasiveness is predictable (e.g. Bock et al. 2018). Further, contrasting the genomic signature of natural selection between native and invasive populations allows me to infer how changes in environment that occur during biological invasions may impact the evolutionary trajectory of invasive populations (e.g. Bock et al. 2021).

My main study systems have been Helianthus sunflowers and Anolis lizards, although I also work on other invasive taxa (e.g. invasive tunicates). You can find out more about previous results by visiting the Publications page. Also, you can find data and code that I generated as part of this research on Dryad.