Thomas Juenger | Principal Investigator
Tom Juenger is an Assistant Professor in the Section of Integrative Biology at the University of Texas at Austin. He is a member of the Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology and the Center for Computation Biology and Bioinformatics.
Tom received a B.S. in Ecology, Ethology, and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana. Before heading to graduate school, he worked as a botanist for the Illinois Natural History Survey, for The Nature Conservancy Colorado Field Office, and on a variety of field research related projects including studies of tropical fruit bats and bird behavioral ecology.
In 1994, Tom started graduate school at the University of Chicago in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, where he worked with Joy Bergelson. His dissertation focused on the ecology and evolution of species interactions in natural scarlet gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata) populations. This work included a mixture of natural history observations, field manipulations, and quantitative genetic analyses. Near the end of graduate school, Tom began working with Arabidopsis thaliana as a model system for studying evolutionary quantitative genetics. In 1999, Tom obtained his Ph.D from UC and received a Miller Institute Postdoctoral fellowship. As a Miller Fellow at UC-Berkeley, Tom worked with Ellen Simms on a variety of questions including studies of the genetic basis of phenotypic plasticity, the quantitative genetics of physiological traits and stress responses, and ecological studies of interactions between plants and nitrogen-fixing bacteria.
Tom began an appointment at the University of Texas at Austin in 2002, where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Evolutionary Biology. Tom’s research explores topics in the ecological and evolutionary genetics of natural populations. He is generally interested in phenotypic evolution. A current focus of the lab is the identification and characterization of genes underlying variation in drought adaptation among Arabidopsis thaliana ecotypes collected from around the world. In addition, he has long-standing interests in the ecology and evolution of plant-animal interactions, including projects focused on pollination biology and herbivory in natural scarlet gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata) populations.
Most recently, the Juenger lab has started a number of project exploring physiological genomics and evolution in C3 (Brachypodium) and C4 (Panicum) grasses.
CURRENT LAB MEMBERS
Amanda Kenney | Graduate Student
Amanda is a graduate student in the EEB program. Amanda is especially interested in the evolution of plant mating systems and pollination biology. She has recently been exploring Texas buckeye (Aesculus glabra) and standing cypress (Ipomopsis rubra) as potential study systems. Amanda is also interested in physiological ecology and has worked on several side projects with Arabidopsis thaliana.
Tierney Wayne | Lab Technician
Tierney came to us from the Stanford Genome Center where she was involved in cancer research using association mapping techniques. She is currently leading our Arabidopsis SNP genotyping studies. She is our “high-throughput guru” and is fond of diet coke, oatmeal, and the Austin live music scene.
Elizabeth Milano | Graduate Student
I am involved in two projects in the Juenger lab. My dissertation research focuses on floral variation and population divergence in two subspecies of I. aggregata that occur on the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies. As a member of the Panicum group, I have been involved in resolving the phylogenetic relationship between P. hallii var. hallii and var. filipes.
Juan Diego Palacio-Mejía | Graduate Student
My main research interest is focused on the knowledge and use of the agobiodiversity, using biotechnology techniques for the improvement of crops. In that sense I am interested in being a bridge between the basic research on model organisms such as Arabidopsis and the application of such research to the development of agriculture production. Currently I am part of the project focused on the physiological genomics of swichtgrass to use it in biofuel production in a global warming context.
Jacob Soule | Graduate Student
Eli Meyer | Post-Doctoral Researcher
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.
David Des Marais | Post-Doctoral Researcher
Most of my work in the Juenger lab deals with the genetic basis of Arabidopsis ecophysiology. The primary goal of my research program is to determine the molecular genetic basis of adaptation, and to use this information to determine the mechanisms that drive the process of evolution. My dissertation work explored the role played by pleiotropy in the evolution of new phenotypes. In my present and future work, I am extending lessons from my earlier studies into a system that is more tractable both in the lab and in the field, Arabidopsis ecophysiology.
Samuel Taylor | Post-Doctoral Researcher
I am interested in plant function and its implications in ecology. My work has largely been focussed on the ecophysiology of C4 grasses, addressing the role of C4 photosynthesis in determining functional trait differences between grass species. As part of the Juenger Lab’s Switchgrass project, I am investigating phenotypic and functional diversity in this proposed biofuel crop species, with particular reference to its response to variable soil moisture availability. In combination with my own research, I am the Research Educator responsible for the “Biology of Biofuels” Freshman Research Initiative program, aiming to enthuse new generations of plant science researchers!
Kyle Hernandez | Post-Doctoral Researcher
In general, my research interests include the evolution of genotype-by-environment interactions and data analysis. My work in the Juenger lab focuses on the genetic architecture of plant tolerance. The primary goals of my research are to understand how tolerance changes in response to different environments and to identify genes associated with tolerance using the model species Brachypodium distachyon. My dissertation work focused on the role of phenotypic plasticity in biotic invasions, and I plan to balance both applied and theoretical work in my current and future endeavors.
Mike Aspinwall | Post-Doctoral Researcher
David Lowry | Post-Doctoral Researcher
Heather McGray | Post-Doctoral Researcher
I am interested in examining how the mechanisms that contribute to biodiversity-ecosystem function relationships shift across levels of ecological organization and environments. Specifically, my research investigates how these mechanisms may be influenced by human mediated changes to the environment, which may impact diversity and modify abiotic conditions. To do this, I use trait-based approaches to understand how phenotypic variation in ecological communities contributes to function and evolutionary processes.