Heather Widmayer

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Heather Widmayer
Lab Affiliation: Alma Mater:
Towson University
Undergraduate Degree:
French and Communications

Research Summary

Fine-scale, genome-wide data can reveal patterns of genetic differentiation within and between populations that may help us discover and date historical and recent lineage divergence. Lineage divergence arises due to the evolution of reproductive isolating barriers and other barriers to gene flow, such as geographic and ecological barriers. Heather uses SNP data generated by ddRAD (double digest restriction site associated) sequencing to explore the hypothesis that geographic and ecologic barriers are restricting gene flow in one species of South American Blepharoneura fruit flies (B. sp10). She uses two statistical methods to detect population structure and find evidence of multiple genetic groupings. I then explore whether these genetic patterns are associated with geographical and/or ecological barriers. Finally, Heather uses approximate Bayesian computation to infer the evolutionary history of B. sp10, and date key evolutionary events to the late Pleistocene.

Graduation Date:
May 2018


Heather uses genetics and bioinformatics to study population genetics of tropical insects. Before studying biology, Heather was a freelance computer consultant with an entrepreneurial spirit. Most recently she worked at the National Museum of Natural History, researching digitization methods for herbarium collections. Prior to that she co-founded Field to Family’s Iowa City Farm to School program, and she created (and later sold) fsbo-iowa.com, a “For Sale by Owner” real estate business. She’s also worked with software development teams at Pearson in Iowa City and with a creative design firm and a financial institution in Pittsburgh. Heather has an MBA from Loyola University Maryland, and a BA in French and Communications from Towson University. She lives in Iowa City with her husband, Charlie, her daughters, Caleigh (15) and Greta (12), and Emmet, the cat.

Graduate Degree