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2010 | 2011

2010 microMORPH training grant awardees

Emily B. Sessa
  Emily B. Sessa, PhD Candidate
Department of Botany
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Givnish Lab

Host institution: Colgate College
Host Lab: Watkins Lab

My research integrates evolution and ecology in a study of the woodferns, the genus Dryopteris. Ferns are the second largest group of vascular plants on earth, and are the sister group to the economically important seed plants. However, relatively little is known about the physiological traits that have driven fern diversification or allowed them to cope with key limiting constraints of their biology. My research will relate divergence in traits affecting light and water balance to the evolution of specific characters in a phylogenetic framework, and will allow me to evaluate reasons for the persistence of hybrid taxa and to examine the causes of speciation in this group.

Rachel S. Jabaily
  Dr. Rachel S. Jabaily, Post-doctoral Researcher
Department of Biological Sciences
Old Dominion University
Motley Lab

Host institution: St. John's University
Host Lab: Howarth Lab

I am using the microMORPH training grant to work with Dr. Dianella Howarth at St. John's University on elucidating the developmental pathways to diverse floral morphologies across the Austral-Pacific family Goodeniaceae. Our work will determine the diversification and potential sub/neofunctionalization of CYCLOIDEA genes impacting floral symmetry development in the family, leading to a better understanding of key innovations important in pollination and potentially new information on floral development within the large angiosperm clade Asterales.

Eric von Wettberg
  Dr. Eric von Wettberg, Assistant Professor
Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden &
Department of Biological Sciences
Florida International University

Host institution: Carleton College
Host Lab: Singer Lab

My primary research interest is in understanding the genetic basis of how plants tolerate stressful soil environments, and how that tolerance varies between populations. I work with model organisms like Medicago truncatula, agricultural crops like chickpea and rare plants like the Big Pine partridge pea that are restricted to stressful soil types, and blend approaches from population genetics, evolutionary ecology, and developmental genetics. My micromorph supported activities include examining flowering time variation and stress tolerance in species of partridge pea (Chamaecrista).

John Lovell
  John Lovell, PhD Candidate
Colorado State University
McKay Lab

Host institution: Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK), Gatersleben, Germany
Host Lab: Sharbel Lab

Within the genus Boechera (Brassicaceae), apomixis (asexual seed production) has evolved independently many times. By observing developmental and genomic patterns across independently formed apomictic lineages, research conducted under this microMORPH training grant will assess the genomic mechanisms, developmental diversity and phenotypic effects of apomixis. Furthermore, by comparing the phenotypes of apomictic lineages with sexual progenitors in the context of the landscape it is possible to assess the patterns of ecological divergence between insipient species and infer patterns of ecological speciation. Field collections and landscape analyses will be conducted at Colorado State University; in collaboration with Dr. Tim Sharbel, all developmental and genomic research will take place at IPK Gaterslaben, Germany.

Diana Acevedo
  Diana Acevedo, (MS student)
Emporia State University
Sundberg Lab

Host institution: University of Kansas
Host Lab: Hileman Lab

The objective of this project is to apply molecular methods such as qrt-PCR and in situ hybridization to understand the evolution of maize in addition to morphological and developmental approaches by sampling three different maize species (Zea mays ssp. Parviglumis, Palomero Toluqueño, and the modern inbred B73). I will use the microMORPH training grant to learn how to use primer design tools for qRT PCR to quantify gene expression, and in situ hybridization probes to identify the physical location and the expression pattern of teosinte branching gene (tb1) in different developmental stages in axillary buds and developing branches. This study will provide a more reliable understanding of the evolutionary origin of maize, and the genetic mechanisms that underlie the morphology that could explain the evolution of this genus. In addition, we will be able to identify genetic differences important in the evolution of maize in the tb1 region so we can distinguish primitive from advance maize races and compare gene expression in different morphological states.

Keisha Carlson (PhD student)
University of Washington
Queitsch Lab

Host institution: Gregor Mendel Institute of Molecular Plant Biology, Austria
Host Lab: Nordborg Lab

Keisha is conducting a genome-wide analysis of functional microsatellite variation as it pertains to adaptation, specifically the transition from vegetative to reproductive growth in Arabidopsis thaliana