PhD Candidate | Local Adaptation | Conservation Biology
I am currently a third year Plant Biology PhD candidate at Penn State University-based in Ruairidh Sawers and Jesse Lasky’s lab. My research interests broadly relate to investigating the mechanisms by which plant biodiversity arises, is maintained, and how it can be leveraged for the future of conservation and agricultural improvement. My research works to answers these questions through a combination of data types (genomic, phenotypic, physiological, environmental). I received my B.S. in Botany with a minor in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation in 2019 from the University of Florida. While at UF, my research focused on development of sweet basil hybrids with downy mildew resistance, under the supervision of Dave Clark. I have also had the great pleasure of interning for the Smithsonian Gardens’ orchid collection department. When not thinking about cereal crops, I’m likely hiking, botanizing, or mountain biking.
Crop systems today are rarely optimized for their environment and are not representative of diversity in available germplasm. My research looks at traditional, native, locally adapted varieties of crops called landraces. Using landraces as a representation of optimized fitness under an abiotic stress of interest, we can better understand the interaction between genetics and environment for select traits. Ultimately, through understanding how GxE contributes to optimized phenotypes, we are one step closer to leveraging this diversity and integrating it into our agricultural systems.