Our group is interested in studying genome evolution and adaptation in plants using both experimental and computational approaches.
We are currently investigating in three main areas:
- Evolution of lineage-specific traits and adaptation through gene turnover. Gene duplication and gene loss (combined: gene turnover) generate genetic diversity between populations and species. We are interested in understanding how these processes influence phenotypic variation and adaptation. We apply comparative genomic approaches to identify lineage-specific differences in gene turnover rates, and to characterize expansions and contractions of gene families that are associated with novel traits. We are using exome sequencing datasets to study population genomic variation in pine trees due to gene copy-number variants.
- Population variation in drought tolerance in pine trees. Climate change will dramatically impact natural forests and timber productivity in managed plantations. One of our goals is to better understand the genetic basis of drought tolerance in loblolly pine trees, the most widely planted forest trees in Southeastern U.S. A multi-lab effort is ongoing in our Department to integrate physiological measurements and gene expression variation data from RNA-seq experiments, with the goal of understanding how the genetic variation between loblolly pine clones determine their response to simulated drought conditions.
- Molecular basis of convergent evolution. Complex phenotypes may evolve independently along multiple lineages that experience similar selective regimes, resulting in convergent adaptations. We are currently interested in studying genetic changes underpinning convergent evolution in C4 plants and marine mammals.
We have established very productive collaborations with other labs at TAMU and in other Universities both in the U.S. and abroad. We are especially fortunate to work together with scientists at the Texas A&M Forest Service, the ESSM Department Forest Science Laboratory and the USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station to develop new approaches for the sequencing of large genomes, using a state of the art laser capture microdissection microscope.