We investigate the causes and consequences of gene exchange in forest trees and other plants. Specifically, we identify the factors that permit migrating genes to successfully establish in new environments and new genetic backgrounds, and determine the impact that these migrant genes have on resident populations. Our research addresses major unresolved questions related to adaptation, speciation, and hybridization, with important implications for applied problems and policy decisions (spread of exotic species, escape of crop genes into the wild, potential impacts of genetically-modified organisms). In practical terms, our program relies upon techniques in high-throughput biology, combining molecular marker development via genomic sequencing, SNP assay and genotyping-by-sequencing approaches, population genetic modeling and computer simulations, plus other evolutionary and environmental analyses.
New projects in the pipeline include:
(1) Genome-scale analyses of hybridization between Populus trichocarpa and P. fremontii
(2) Evaluation of gene flow between exotic species and native forest stands: an alternative method for assessing impacts of genetically-modified trees (North American P. tremuloides and hybrid aspen with native P. tremula)
(3) Broad-scale admixture and adaptation of Norway spruce
(4) Next-generation sequencing approaches to assess genomic diversity and connectivity of managed spruce stands (RAD sequencing, sequence capture approaches)
(5) Hybridization between the ploidy-variable Salix species of Sweden
As a scientist, I promote a data-driven approach to policy.