Broadly speaking, I’m interested in understanding the genetic and physiological basis of complex traits. I use high-throughput sequencing methods to profile expression patterns in contrasting phenotypes in an effort to identify the genes and processes involved in these traits. In my dissertation research I studied growth heterosis in a the widely-farmed marine bivalve, the Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas. Expression profiling in that system (using MPSS) identified relationship between the stoichiometry of ribosomal protein gene expression and differential growth rates. In my postdoctoral research, I’ve applied next-generation sequencing methods (454) and bioinformatic analysis to develop sequence resources for another marine animal, the reef-building coral Acropora millepora. That sequence resource has allowed me to expression profile responses to temperature stress and settlement cues, using an RNASeq approach on the SOLiD sequencing platform. This approach has brought new insights into a trait that’s of clear adaptive importance for corals as seawater temperatures rise due to climate change.
In the Juenger lab, I will be applying similar approaches to study drought responses in a promising biofuel crop -- the switchgrass species Panicum virgatum and P. hallii. We’ve begun by using 454 sequencing to identify genetic markers that will allow us to construct a genetic map for the diploid P. hallii, an important resource for QTL mapping physiological responses to drought stress. In the near future we’ll be using RNASeq to compare whole-genome expression profiles between P. virgatum varieties collected from diverse regions and environmental conditions. Ultimately, these studies will help to identify the genetic basis of differences in drought tolerance among switchgrass varieties