Breaking the Petunia pollination syndrome

Petunia secreta petal limbs, UV and visible

I am currently working in Cris Kuhlemeier’s group at the University of Bern. My project is about the genetic architecture and molecular basis of a wild Petunia species, Petunia secreta, that does not adhere to the traditional pollination syndrome. While it shares many traits with the bee-pollinated Petunia, it is nested in the long-tubed clade that has undergone morphological diversification and pollinator shifts. I am using a combination of floral color, scent, and morphological phenotypes with RNAseq, genome sequencing, VIGS, and transient transformation to describe the species.

The Loss of Pigmentation in the Iochrominae

I was a postdoctoral researcher in the Smith lab at the University of Colorado-Boulder from 2014-2016. I examined the genetic and biochemical changes associated with convergent origins of white flowers in Iochrominae (Solanaceae) species using a combination of HPLC, phylogenetic, and transcriptomic methods.

Iochroma fuchsioides basking in the Boulder afternoon sun

Iochroma fuchsioides basking in the Boulder afternoon sun

The evolution of genetic networks and constraint on phenotypes

In collaboration with Dr. Smith, I am bringing flavonoid pathway gene coexpression data over to the CU-Boulder BioFrontiers Institute to Dr. Aaron Clauset‘s lab. We are working to understand how genetic networks constrain phenotypic evolution over a phylogeny using network analysis and comparative techniques.

Flavonoid Pathway Ecology and Evolution in Silene vulgaris

I completed my dissertation work in the at the University of Virginia in the Taylor lab with the title: “The Role of the Plant Flavonoid Pathway in Adaptation to the Environment”. I worked with Silene vulgaris (Caryophyllaceae) across elevational gradients in the French Alps, and continue to work with Silene with collaborators.

The flavonoid pathway produces many subgroups of flavonoids and can be considered as an complex phenotype.  Each of the flavonoid subgroups are responsible for ecological roles, such as pigmentation, defense against herbivory, and protection against UV damage.  Using Silene vulgaris, I described adaptive divergence, genetic constraints, and phenotypic correlations among the flavonoid subgroups and their ecological roles, and how they contribute to the evolution of the flavonoid pathway along elevational gradients.  I used a combination of HPLC, RNA-seq, and ecological genetics in my dissertation.

Measuring Silene vulgaris at my dissertation field site at the Col du Lautaret, France

Measuring Silene vulgaris at my dissertation field site at the Col du Lautaret, France

Most of my questions are addressed in the lab and in the field. I do my Silene field work in the French Alps at and around the University of Grenoble’s Station Alpine Joseph Fourier (SAJF).

Metabolomics + Transcriptomics

I am interested in combining HPLC profiling techniques with transcriptome data to thoroughly investigate the intricacies of the flavonoid biosynthetic pathway. In fall 2014 I collaborated with Brenda Winkel’s lab at Virginia Tech to analyze the flavonoids in petal and leaf extracts of the Iochrominae, funded by the EDEN Research Exchange program.

The Evolution of Floral Color in Silene

 Floral color is not monophyletic in Silene species.  I am using phylogenetic methods to determine the ancestral floral color state in Silene and whether there are signatures of selection for white, pink, and red petals.

Silene floral color at UVa

Silene floral color at UVa