I’m a Senior majoring in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Mathematics, graduating this spring. My research is on the genetic basis of herbivory resistance in Panicum virgatum, or switchgrass. Switchgrass is a biofuel candidate which grows over a large latitudinal gradient, from Mexico to Canada, and its several ecotypes can grow in different climates. It is a perennial C4 bunch grass. The goal of this research is to create the most productive and efficient variate or variates of switchgrass for biofuel production.
I spent the summer of 2019 researching switchgrass’ resistance to Spodoptera frugiperda, or fall armyworm, at the Blackland Research Center in Temple, Texas, through an REU program at UT Austin. Switchgrass has lots of trait variation within the species, and I looked into how those traits might confer resistance, and how strongly they are tied to specific sections of the genome.I’ve also had the opportunity to be a research assistant in the Suding lab, working with PhD candidate Julie Larson on her projects which investigate community ecology and land management of Boulder OSMP managed grasslands. Being able to work on research as an undergraduate has provided me with valuable experience to give me a glimpse of what a career in ecology would look like, and I hope to use the lessons I’ve learned to get an advanced degree in ecology, environmental engineering, or environmental policy.