Michigan State University
Department of Plant Biology
I study the ecological genetics and genomics of wild plants. Understanding how and why heritable, ecologically important traits vary across the landscape is an integral part of the biology of these amazingly diverse organisms. Equally important, it allows us a deeper understanding of their capacity to adapt to rapid environmental changes, invade new areas, and be developed for agriculture.
I use both molecular and quantitative genetic and genomic methods to understand the evolution of adaptive differences between populations (local adaptation). In my PhD work at Cornell University (Geber lab), I studied the influence of local adaptation on the formation of geographic range boundaries in the california wildflower Clarkia xantiana. I also studied the genetic basis of adaptation at a much smaller spatial scale in response to soil acidification and aluminum toxicity in wild sweet vernal grass (Anthoxanthum odoratum) at the historic Park Grass Experiment (Harpenden, UK) and in the species introduced US range. As a postdoc I am working to understand the degree of genetic convergence in the evolution of adaptive flowering time clines in the native and introduced ranges of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana (Stinchcombe lab, University of Toronto). I have also begun to investigate the genetic basis of population differences in switchgrass with an eye toward the development of better biofuels (Lowry lab, Michigan State University).
The study of the genes and mutations (QTNs) underlying adaptive traits in plants continues to contribute fundamental understanding in both basic and applied areas of plant biology. See our recent opinion on this in AoB Plants!
Young Wha Lee*, Billie Gould*, and JR Stinchcombe. 2014. Identifying the genes underlying quantitative traits: A rationale for the QTN programme. *equal contributions. Annals of Botany Plants. 6:plu004 Link