Robert Drew


Robert Drew

Associate Professor

Ph.D. Washington State University 
Genomics and quantitative genetics, domestication of fish

Phone: 508-999-8950 
Office: Science and Engineering, Room 328B

My research integrates genomic and quantitative genetic approaches to investigate variation among populations, primarily behavioral and physiological adaptations in fish.  Fishes are the most diverse group of vertebrates, and species have adapted to very different, often extreme environmental conditions.  Projects in my laboratory combine genomics, quantitative genetics, and linkage analysis to investigate the genetic variation and physiological mechanisms underlying innovative adaptations. 

In the long term, I am particularly interested in the following questions:  

(1)   What are the molecular mechanisms underlying these adaptations and how do they function?

(2)   Are the same genes or pathways responsible for convergent adaptations in different species?

(3)   Are suites of traits that co-evolve genetically co-regulated?

 Recent Publications | Graduate Students |  Courses

Primary Research Areas

Genetic Analyses of Fish Domestication:  Domesticated populations often evolve physiological changes that enhance growth and reproduction, and reduce fear-related behavior and sensitivity to stress.  These phenotypic changes have been observed in a variety of taxa including fish, birds, and mammals, suggesting that this is likely an example of convergent phenotypic evolution.  However, it is not known if these presumed adaptations involve the same genes; in fact, the genes underlying these adaptations have not been well described in any vertebrate species.  My laboratory uses a combination of quantitative genetics and genomics to investigate adaptations to captivity, currently in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss).

Genetic Analyses of Anemonefish-Sea Anemone Symbiosis:  The anemonefish-sea anemone interaction is one of the most recognizable cases of symbiosis, but is only one example of symbioses with cnidarians. Multiple fish clades have independently evolved mutualistic or commensal relationships with sea anemones, corals, and jellyfishes. These adaptive associations involve a complex suite of traits that enable and foster the partnership.  In some cases, the interaction has evolved to the level where the fish can swim unharmed among the tentacles, protected from the stinging nematocysts of the host. This protection has been most well studied with the anemonefish-sea anemone interaction where the external mucus of the fish prevents discharge of the host’s nematocysts. However, despite over 40 years of research, the proximate mechanisms enabling this protection remain a mystery.  In my laboratory, we are applying genomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic techniques to investigate the proximate mechanisms and convergent evolution of these associations.



Drew RE, Settles ML, Churchill EJ, Williams SM, Balli S*, & Robison BD. (2012). Brain transcriptome variation among behaviorally distinct strains of zebrafish (Danio rerio).  BMC Genomics 13:323.

Oswald ME, Drew RE, Racine M, Murdoch GK, & Robison BD. (2012). Is behavioral variation along the bold-shy continuum associated with variation in the stress axis in zebrafish?  Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 85:718-728.

Kanuga MK, Drew RE, Wilson-Leedy JG, & Ingermann RL. (2012). Subpopulation distribution of motile sperm relative to activation medium in steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss).  Theriogenology 77, 916-925.

Nagler JJ, Cavileer T, Hunter S, Drew R, Okutsu T, Sakamoto T, & Yoshizaki G. (2011). Non-sex specific genes associated with the secondary mitotic period of primordial germ cell proliferation in the gonads of embryonic rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss).  Molecular Reproduction and Development 78, 181-187.

Breton J*, Oliveira K, Drew RE, Jones KL, Hagen C, & Lance S. (2011). Development and characterization of ten polymorphic microsatellite loci in the yellowtail flounder (Limanda ferruginea). Conservation Genetics Resources 3, 369-371.

Benner MJ, Drew RE, Hardy RW, & Robison BD.  (2010). Zebrafish (Danio rerio) vary by strain and sex in their behavioral and transcriptional responses to selenium supplementation.  Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A Molecular & Integrative Physiology157, 310-318.

Alfaqih MA, Brunelli JP, Drew RE & Thorgaard GH. (2009). Mapping of five candidate sex-determining loci in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). BMC Genetics 10, 2.

Chapalamadugu KC, Robison BD, Drew RE, Powell MS, Hill RA, Amberg JJ, Rodnick KJ, Hardy RW, Hill ML, Murdoch GK. (2009).  Dietary carbohydrate level affects transcription factor expression that regulates skeletal muscle myogenesis in rainbow trout.  Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part B Biochem Mol Biol 153, 66-72.

Phillips RB, DeKoning JJ, Ventura AB, Nichols KM, Drew RE, Chaves LD, Reed KM, Felip A, Thorgaard GH. (2009). Recombination is suppressed over a large region of the rainbow trout Y chromosome. Animal Genetics 40, 925-932.

Barroso RM, Wheeler PA, LaPatra SE, Drew RE & Thorgaard GH. (2008). QTL for IHNV resistance and growth identified in a rainbow (Oncorhynchus mykiss) X Yellowstone cutthroat (Oncorhynchus clarki bouvieri) trout cross. Aquaculture 277, 156-163.

Drew RE, Rodnick KJ, Settles M, Wacyk J, Churchill E, Powell MS, Hardy RW, Murdoch GK, Hill RA & Robison BD. (2008). Effect of starvation on transcriptomes of brain and liver in adult female zebrafish (Danio rerio). Physiological Genomics 35, 283–295.

Heredia-Middleton P, Brunelli J, Drew RE & Thorgaard GH. (2008). Heat shock protein (HSP70) RNA expression differs among rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) clonal lines. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part B Biochem Mol Biol 149, 552–556.

Robison BD, Drew RE, Murdoch GK, Powell M, Rodnick KJ, Settles M, Stone D, Churchill E, Hill RA, Papasani MR, Lewis SS & Hardy RW. (2008). Sexual dimorphism in hepatic gene expression and the response to dietary carbohydrate manipulation in the zebrafish (Danio rerio). Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part D Genomics and Proteomics 3, 141-154.

Drew RE, Schwabl H, Wheeler PA & Thorgaard GH. (2007). Detection of QTL influencing cortisol levels in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Aquaculture 272, S183–S194.

Brown KH, Drew RE, Weber LA & Thorgaard GH. (2006). Intraspecific variation in the rainbow trout mitochondrial DNA genome. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part D Genomics and Proteomics 1, 219-226.

Landis ED, Palti Y, Dekoning J, Drew R, Phillips RB & Hansen JD. (2006). Identification and regulatory analysis of rainbow trout tapasin and tapasin-related genes. Immunogenetics 58, 56-69.

Phillips RB, Nichols KM, DeKoning JJ, Morasch MR, Keatley KA, Rexroad III C, Gahr SA, Danzmann RG, Drew RE & Thorgaard GH. (2006). Assignment of rainbow trout linkage groups to specific chromosomes. Genetics 174, 1661–1670.

Sundin K, Brown KH, Drew RE, Nichols KM, Wheeler PA & Thorgaard GH. (2005). Genetic analysis of a development rate QTL in backcrosses of clonal rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss. Aquaculture 247, 75-83.

Lucas MD, Drew RE, Wheeler PA, Verrell PA & Thorgaard GH. (2004). Behavioral differences among rainbow trout clonal lines. Behavior Genetics 34, 355-365.

Drew RE, Hallett JG, Aubry KB, Cullings KW, Koepf SM & Zielinksi WJ. (2003). Conservation genetics of the fisher (Martes pennanti) based on mitochondrial DNA sequencing. Molecular Ecology 12, 51-62.

Nichols KM, Young WP, Danzmann RG, Robison BD, Rexroad C, Noakes M, Phillips RB, Bentzen P, Spies I, Knudsen K, Allendorf FW, Cunningham BM, Brunelli J, Zhang H, Ristow S, Drew R, Brown KH, Wheeler PA & Thorgaard GH. (2003). A consolidated linkage map for rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Animal Genetics 34, 102-115.

Recent Graduate Students

Soniya Balli, BMEBT PhD program (in progress)

Kelsey Garlick, Biology MS (in progress)

Ryan Higgins, Biology MS (in progress)

Marian Wahl, Biology MS (in progress)

Nicole Rodstrom, Biology MS (January 2013)

Katherine Spendel, Biology MS (August 2012)



Courses Professor Drew has taught include:

BIO 333 General Genetics (Lecture and Lab)
BIO 411 Genomics 
BIO 211 Biology of Populations
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