About me

Welcome to my page! I am a scientist who is trying to understand the evolutionary mechanisms that led to the incredible diversity we observe in nature. I have always been amazed by the natural variation in organisms, possibly a side effect of being brought up in a biodiversity hotspot. I am mostly interested in “Why?”s, “How?”s and “No-way!”s of the non/semi-random processes in our complicated and mostly random world.

I completed my BSc and MSc at METU, Turkey and during my master studies I studied population structure, genetic variation and phylogenetics of an endemic tree species from Turkey, Liquidambar orientalis (sweetgum).

During my PhD at University of Amsterdam, I worked on genetic and physiological basis of adaptations to submergence  in Brassicaceae species; inevitably one of which being Arabidopsis and also two of its wild relatives from Rorippa genus that show extreme tolerance. This study led to my PhD thesis titled “Sink or swim? Submergence tolerance and survival strategies in Rorippa and Arabidopsis, and 7 subsequent publications.

Learning more about plant survival strategies in various harsh habitats, I got very interested in how plants adapt to their local environments and how these adaptive traits define plant distributions along a gradient. As a postdoctoral researcher in Andrew Latimer’s lab, I worked on landscape and evolutionary genomics of South African Protea repens and Pelargonium species. This project involved nextgen sequencing of transcriptomes in population level. Our main goal was to find genes involved in local adaptations that evolved as a response to environmental gradients in Cape Floristic Region. I am mainly interested in abiotic environmental stresses related to global climate change such as drought, flooding, temperature fluctuations and seasonality. This work is still ongoing and more publications are to follow.

Now, I hold a postdoc position in Ben Blackman’s lab. By using ancient DNA techniques, this project aims at revealing how artificial selection shaped genetic architecture of sunflowers. Early plant domestication had profound effects on the development of human civilization. Revealing where, when and how these domestication events occurred is a major interest for archeology, genetics and evolutionary studies. Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) was domesticated ~4000 years ago in Eastern North America, leading to the evolution of the modern crop with larger flowers, seeds, unbranched stems and higher oil content compared to wild progenitors. In this project, we first aim to identify genes that are artificially selected by humans during domestication (such as those involved in increased seeds size and oil content). We are achieving this by comparing patterns of sequence diversity in wild and early domesticates of sunflowers to reveal signatures of selection. Then, by using ancient DNA (aDNA) techniques, we will obtain sequence for candidate domestication genes from archeological samples dating from 500 to 3500 years ago. By comparing the archeological samples with the wild and early domesticates of sunflowers, we will reveal how artificial selection shaped the genetic architecture of domesticated sunflowers through a time tunnel.

For more information please refer to My Research.