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red rice grains

The evolutionary genomics of weedy rice

Red rice is a weedy form of rice (Oryza sativa) that invades cultivated rice fields and competes aggressively with the crop. We are interested in determining the origin of weedy rice and the various evolutionary processes that have given rise to the weedy phenotype. Possible factors in the origin of red rice are the introduction of foreign wild relatives, introgression between crops and foreign contaminants, and “de-domestication” (inadvertent selection by humans for weedy traits). Current projects involve characterizing the population structure of weedy rice worldwide, and investigating variation in candidate genes for weed-associated traits. This research is carried out in collaboration with K. Olsen, at Washington University, and Y. Jia, at the Natl. Rice Research Center. Check out our weedy rice genomics webpage for more details!

tomato leaf

Adaptive evolution in wild tomatoes

Wild tomatoes (Solanum spp.) comprise ~13 species, which have diversified to occupy a great variety of environments in South America. The tomato clade contains a fascinating range of intra- and interspecific phenotypic variation, much of it involving traits of agriculture interest, including stress tolerance, mating system, and disease resistance. We are interested in identifying genes contributing to diversification and stress tolerance in wild tomatoes species. We are currently studying the molecular evolution of genes involved in fruit development pathways, to assess the roles of various population processes on tomato evolution.


The evolutionary genetics of plant domestication

Domestication constitutes a special case of rapid evolution, in which strong selective pressures have been exerted by humans. By comparing genetic variation in cultivated crops and their wild ancestors, we can gain insight into how the process of domestication has modified plant genomes. We are interested in using population genomic tools to identify crop origins and determine the roles of demographic processes and selection in the evolution of domesticated species. Although current focus in the lab is on the origin of various rice variety groups, we are broadly interested in domestication in plant species, and opportunities to work on other crop-wild systems exist.