My current research focuses on molecular and quantitative genetics of shrub and tree species. This research includes understanding the evolutionary relationships, population genetic structure, and adaptive genetic variation. Current projects include the following species: big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata), blackbrush (Coleogyne ramosissima) and aspen (Populus tremuloides). This research employs various genetic techniques: common garden trials to measure adaptive variation in quantitative traits, next-generation sequencing to develop molecular markers and annotate genes, and genecology to develop association between traits and climate variables to infer seeds zones for current and future climates.
My research interests include population genomics, genecology, and phylogenetics of plants. I am particularly interested in using genetic approaches to address ecological interactions between plants and the environment.
Much of a species demographic and evolutionary history is recorded into the DNA and phenotypic traits. Genetic research has an extremely broad use for basic and applied research. Molecular genetic data provide the insight into evolutionary relationships between plant taxa and assess intraspecific genetic diversity and structure. These data are critical in identifying unique or at risk populations, understand barriers to gene flow, and evaluate past climate change on demographics and biogeography. Genetics data can also assess environmental adaptation. Common gardens trials measure genetic responses to climate. This data is used to develop of seed zones for plant species. Knowledge of where to collect and plant seeds is critical to restoration success, sustainability of ecosystems and efficient use of funding.
Knowledge of how plants are adapted to their environments is fundamental to ecological restoration and mitigating impacts from climate change. This research has applications for the development of current and future seed transfer zones, ensuring seed banks capture the genetic diversity of a species and other tools that enable restoration of natural ecosystems.