PrincipaI Investigator: Tonia S. Schwartz               


Assistant Professor of Functional Genomics, Auburn University


  • Post-doc: James S. McDonnell Foundation, University of Alabama at Birmingham. 

  • PhD: Iowa State University, Genetics

  • MS: University of South Florida, Zoology/Population Genetics

  • BS: Iowa State University, Zoology/Genetics.


I have a diverse research background, provided by the opportunities to work with a variety of research teams both within the US and internationally. I grew up in rural Iowa supported by a wonderful family. I started on the pre-vet route at Iowa State University. I was fortunate to be able to conduct undergraduate research experience with Drs. Bonnie Bowen and Carol Vleck, using genetics to study population dynamics of Mexican jays, Adelie penguins, and freshwater mussels. It was during this time that I realized I was much more interested in studying natural populations of animals, rather then pets and farm animals and I decided to go to graduate school instead of vet school.

My Masters research at University of South Florida under the direction of Dr. Steven Karl provided a strong foundation in population genetics and molecular ecology. Between my Masters and PhD degrees, I spent four years in Australia conducting research on diverse topics: hybridization and speciation with Dr. Luciano Beheregary, molecular evolution of metabolic genes and their activation with Dr. Frank Seebacher, and pedigree-based sexual selection and inbreeding depression with Professor Mats Olsson. As a genetics PhD student at Iowa State University, advised by Drs. Anne Bronikowski and Jo Anne Powell-Coffman, I was an NSF-IGERT fellow in Computational Molecular Biology, which provided training in Bioinformatics. During my dissertation research I identified nodes in the molecular stress response network (genes, transcripts, metabolites) that have diverged between natural populations of garter snakes that are at either end of the pace-of-life continuum due to selection imposed by the unique environmental stresses in their environments. A NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant in part funded this work, which was strongly dependent on genomic and transcriptomic approaches.


From 2013 - 2015 I and my research was supported by 2-year James S. McDonnell Post-doctoral Fellowship Award in Studying Complex Systems.  My postdoctoral research was mentored by Drs. David Allison and Julia Gohlke at University of Alabama at Birmingham, in the Office of Energetics. Through this fellowship I received training in energetics, statistical genetics, and bioinformatic and network analyses, which I incorporated into my research program addressing the evolution of molecular networks that integrate environmental stress response and life-history traits.

As an assistant professor at Auburn, I study how an individual responds to environmental stress (e.g. social, physiological, nutritional, toxins) can affect how that individual behaves, its ability to reproduce, and its lifespan. My research integrates environmental variation, molecular networks, and life history to understand how organisms respond to their environment at the individual level (plasticity and acclimation) and how this response can evolve across populations and across species. See the lab research page for more information on our ongoing research projects.

Post-doctoral Research

  Transgenerational effects of dietary stress (or perception there of)
Effects of temperature, food abundance, and toxins on molecular networks and life history traits, using Daphnia

Collaborators: Theodore Morgan & Alison Gerken (Kansas State Univ.), Daniel Hahn & Caroline Williams (Univ. of Florida), David Allison & Xiangqin Cui (Univ. of Alabama at B'ham).


Summary:  My collaborators have selected lines of Drosophila for cold hardiness and cold susceptibility. I am using genetic expression network analyses to identify functional genetic networks that have evolved in response to artifical selection on cold resistance. 


Publications: In Prep. Check back soon!

Collaborators:  Julia Gohlke, Phil Pearson, Jordan Roberts, John Dawson & David Allison


Summary: We used Daphnia pulex to test hypotheses on the influence of environmental stress on reproduction and lifespan within and across generations. Specifically we are testing how food (algae) abundance alters gene expression networks to regulate these correlated life history traits. Additionally we are testing the affect of maternal age on offsprings resistance to toxins.



1. Nelson, JRG, TS Schwartz, JM Gohlke. 2018. Influence of maternal age on the effects of seleno-L-methionine in the model organism Daphnia pulex under standard and heat stress conditions. Reproductive Toxicology. 75:1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.reprotox.2017.11.001

2. Schwartz, TS, P Pearson(UO), J Dawson,  DB Allison, JM Gohlke. 2016. Effects of fluctuating temperature and food availability on reproduction and lifespan. Experimental Gerontology. 86: 62-72.   doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2016.06.010

Collaborators: Suzanne McGaugh (Univ. of Minnesota), Anne Bronikowsi (Iowa State Univ.), Shikha Parsai


Summary: Using large-scale transcriptomics data and sequence alignments, we are testing how functional molecular networks can evolve across mammals and reptiles. We are currently focusing on the Insulin and insulin-like signaling/TOR network (IIS/TOR) and the P53 network. Both of these networks are intimately linked to lifespan and stress response. 



1. McGaugh SE, AM Bronikowski, C-H Kuo, DM Reding, EA Addis, LE Flagel, FJ Janzen, TS Schwartz. 2015. Rapid molecular evolution across amniotes of the IIS/TOR network. PNAS doi: 10.1073/pnas.1419659112​


2. Schwartz, TS, AM Bronikowski. 2016. Evolution and Function of the Insulin and Insulin-like Signaling Network in Ectothermic Reptiles: Some Answers and More Questions? Integrative and Comparative Biology. 56(2): 171-184.

Evolution of molecular networks across amniotes (Reptiles and Mammals)
Evolution of Cold Tolerance, using Drosophila

Collaborators: David Allison, Maria Johnson, Tim Nagy, Scott Pletcher 


Summary: Using mice and drosophila we are testing how the perception (smell and sight) of the food environment, regardless of what food they consume, may affect an individuals physiology and the body composition and lifespan of their offspring.



1. Schwartz, TS, S Carter, JM Wyss, MS Johnson, ED Dohm, R Gainer, and DB Allison. In Press. Second-hand eating? Perception of the food environment affects reproductive investment in mice. Obesity. doi: 10.1002/oby.21047

2. Gibbs, VK, TS Schwartz, MS Johnson, A Patki, TR Nagy, BJ George, DB Allison. 2018. No significant effect of maternal perception of the food environment on reproductive success or pup outcomes in C57BL/6 mice. Obesity. 26(4):723-729. doi: 10.1002/oby.22141.


Doctoral Research

Evolution of stress response and life-history trade-offs in natural populations of garter snakes

Advisor: Anne Bronikowski  



Garter snake populations around Eagle Lake, CA have diverged in their life history traits (growth, reproduction, and lifespan) such that they represent "fast-living" and "slow-living" ecotypes. During my PhD I tested if these ecotypes respond to stress differently as would be predicted based on the biomedical literature. I used large-scale transcriptomic and genomic analyses along with targeting specific physiological nodes to determine that stress response has diverged among these ecotypes. 



1. Schwartz, TS, and AM Bronikowski. 2013. Dissecting molecular stress networks: identifying nodes of divergence between life-history phenotypes. Molecular Ecology. 22(3): 739-756 DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2012.05750.x   


2. Schwartz, TS*, H Tae*, Y Yang, K Mockaitis, JL Van Hemert, SR Proulx, J-H Choi, and AM Bronikowski. 2010. A garter snake transcriptome: pyrosequencing, de novo assembly, and sex-specific differences. BMC Genomics. 11: 694-715.  


3. Schwartz TS and Bronikowski AM. 15. Gene expression of components of the insulin/insulin-like signaling pathway in response to heat stress in the garter snake, Thamnophis elegans. Iowa Academy of Science.


4. Schwartz, TS and AM Bronikowski. 2011. Molecular Stress Pathways and the Evolution of Life Histories in Reptiles. In Flatt & Heyland (Eds) Molecular Mechanisms of Life History Evolution, Oxford University Press.

5. Sparkman, AM*, TS Schwartz*, J Madden, SE Boyken, JM Serb, NB Ford, and AM Bronikowski. 2012. Evolutionary rates vary among reptiles for insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), a pleiotropic locus involved in life history traits. General and Comparative Endocrinology. 178(1): 164-173.

6. Schwartz, TS, Z Arendsee, AM Bronikowski. 2015. Mitochondrial divergence between slow- and fast-aging garter snakes. Experimental Gerontology. 71:135-146.  doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2015.09.004

Research as Laboratory Tech/Lab Manager

Natural selection in lizard populations:  
Sexual Selection/Mating Systems; Developmental genes; Telomeres; Molecular Markers

Collaborators: Mats Olsson, Tobias Uller,  M Healey, E Wapstra,

T Uller, B Ujvari, T Madsen, R Shine, C Perrin, D Blomqvist, A Pauliny




Using molecular analyses on natural pouplations of lizards (sand lizards, painted dragons, mally dragons) we elucidate how mating systems and senecence respond to natural selection, sexual selection, and inbreeding depression.


Publications: Sexual Selection/mating systems

Olsson, M, E Wapstra, T Schwartz, T Madsen, B Ujvari, T Uller and R Shine. 2011. In hot pursuit: fluctuating mating system and sexual selection in sand lizards. Evolution. 65(2): 574-53


Olsson, M, T Schwartz, E Wapstra, T Uller, B Ujvari, T Madsen, and R Shine. 2011. Climate change, multiple paternity and offspring survival in lizards. Evolution 65: 3323-3326.


Uller. T, T Schwartz, T Koglin, M Olsson. 2013. Sperm storage and sperm competition across ovarian cycles in the dragon lizard, Ctenopherus fordi. Journal of Experimental Zoology. 319A:404-408.


Olsson, M, T Schwartz, T Uller and M Healey. 2009. Effects of sperm storage and male colour on probability of paternity in a polychromatic lizard. Animal Behaviour 77:419-424.


Olsson, M, E Wapstra, M Healey, T Schwartz and T Uller. 2008. Selection on space use in a polymorphic lizard. Evolutionary Ecology Research 10:621-627.


Olsson, M, T Schwartz, T Uller and M Healey. 2007. Sons are made from old stores: sperm storage effects on sex ratio in a lizard. Biology Letters 3: 491-493.


Olsson, M, M Healey, E Wapstra, T Schwartz, N Lebas and T Uller. 2007. Mating system variation and morph fluctuations in a polymorphic lizard. Molecular Ecology 16: 5307-5315. 



Publications: Molecular Markers

Schwartz, T and M Olsson. 2008. Microsatellite markers developed for a Swedish population of sand lizard (Lacerta agilis). Conservation Genetics 9:715-717.  Erratum 9:719-721.


Schwartz, TS, DA Warner, LB Beheregaray and M Olsson. 2007. Microsatellite loci for Australian agamid lizards. Molecular Ecology Notes 7: 528-531. 


Publications: Development

Schwartz, TS, C Perrin, E Wapstra, T Uller, and M Olsson. 2011. Complex selection associated with Hox genes in a natural population of lizards. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 24:2520-2524.


Publications: Telomeres

Olsson, M, A Pauliny, E Wapstra, T Uller, T Schwartz and D Blomqvist. 2011. Sex Differences in Sand Lizard Telomere Inheritance: Paternal Epigenetic Effects Increases Telomere Heritability and Offspring Survival. PLoS ONE 6: e17473.


Olsson, M, A Pauliny, E Wapstra, T Uller, T Schwartz and D Blomqvist. 2011. Sexual differences in telomere selection in the wild. Molecular Ecology 20: 2085-2099


Fisheries Population Genetics and speciation/hybridization
Collaborators: Luciano Beheregary, Shannon Corrigan; Steven Karl

1. Shaddick, K, C Burridge, D Jerry, T Schwartz, K Truong, D Gilligan, and L Beheregaray. 2011. A hybrid zone and bi-directional introgression between the catadromous species: Australian bass and estuary perch. Journal of Fish Biology. 79: 1214-1235.


2. Corrigan, S, C Huveneers, TS Schwartz, RG Harcourt and LB Beheregaray. 2008. Genetic and reproductive evidence for two species of ornate wobbegong shark on the Australian East Coast. Journal of Fish Biology 73: 1662-1675.


3. Schwartz, TS and LB Beheregaray. 2008. Using genotype simulations and Bayesian analyses to identify individuals of hybrid origin in Australian bass: lessons for fisheries management. Journal of Fish Biology 72: 435-450.


4. Schwartz, TS., F Jenkins and LB Beheregaray. 2005. Microsatellite DNA markers developed for the Australian bass (Macquaria novemaculeata) and their cross-amplification in estuary perch (Macquaria colonorum). Molecular Ecology Notes 5: 519-520.


5. Roberts, MA, TS Schwartz and SA Karl. 2004. Global population genetic structure and male-mediated gene flow in the green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas): analysis of microsatellite loci. Genetics 166: 1857-1870.


6. Beheregaray, LB, TS Schwartz, LM Moller, D Call, NL Chao and A Caccone. 2004a. A set of microsatellite DNA markers for the one-lined pencilfish Nannostomus unifasciatus, an Amazonian flooded forest fish. Molecular Ecology Notes 4: 333-335.


7. Beheregaray, LB, LM Moller, TS Schwartz, NL Chao and A Caccone. 2004b. Microsatellite markers for the cardinal tetra Paracheirodon axelrodi, a commercially important fish from central Amazonia. Molecular Ecology Notes 4: 330-332.


8. Seminoff, JA, SA Karl, T Schwartz and A Resendiz. 2003. Hybridization of the green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) in the Pacific Ocean: Indication of an absence of gender bias in the directionality of crosses. Bulletin of Marine Science 73: 643-652.

Non-Peer Reviewed Reports
Beheregaray, LB, and TS Schwartz, 2011. Chapter 6: Taxonomic assessment of Australian bass and estuary perch, pp. 57-60 in Fisheries Victoria Research Report Series: Freshwater fish resources in the Snowy River, Victoria. Edited by W. Fulton and K. Hall. Fisheries Victoria, Department of Primary Industries, Victoria, Australia.
Schwartz, TS and T Bert. 2003. Preliminary assessment of the genetic structure of vermilion snapper (Rhomboplites aurorubens). Special Report to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. FMRI Report Number IHR2003-007.
Schwartz, TS, M Tringali, T Bert, R Nostrom, JE Reynolds, III. 2002. Assessment of a novel approach to obtain genetic specimens from free-ranging manatees. Mote Marine Laboratory Technical Report to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Evolution of metabolic processes within the Reptiles (including birds)
Collaborators: Frank Seebacher

1. Schwartz, TS, S Murray and F Seebacher. 2008. Novel reptilian uncoupling proteins: molecular evolution and gene expression during cold acclimation. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 275: 979-985.


2. Seebacher, F, TS Schwartz and MB Thompson. 2006. Transition from ectothermy to endothermy: the development of metabolic capacity in a bird (Gallus gallus). Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences 273: 565-570.



Masters Research

Conservation Genetics of Gopher Tortoises

Advisor: Stephen Karl


Summary: During my Master I worked with Stephen Karl to develop microsatellite markers for the gopher tortoies (Gopherus polyphemus) that we used to estimate the population structure across Florida for the purpose of conservation management.



1. Schwartz, TS, and SA Karl. 2005. Population and conservation genetics of the gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus). Conservation Genetics 6: 917-928. 


2. Schwartz, TS and SA Karl. 2008. Population genetic assignment of confiscated gopher tortoises. Journal of Wildlife Management 72: 254-259. 


3. Schwartz, TS, M Osentoski, T Lamb and SA Karl. 2003. Microsatellite loci for the North American tortoises (genus Gopherus) and their applicability to other turtle species. Molecular Ecology Notes 3: 283-286.