Jake Alsdurf is from Rapid City, South Dakota and has an M.S. degree in Integrative Genomics from Black Hills State University where his primary research was on epigenetic inheritance of stress tolerance in alpine perennial plants. Currently Jake is working with Andropogon gerardii,the ecologically dominant grass of the tallgrass prairies with five objectives: 1) to identify the distribution of phenotypes; 2) quantify genetic diversity and population structure; 3) identify SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) outliers under selection from climate; 4) strengthen species distribution models using genotypic and phenotypic data and apply to future climate scenarios; 5) transcriptome analysis identifying differential regulation due to drought stress. Ultimately, research into these questions will combine ecological and genomic approaches to “find the genes that affect evolutionary fitness in natural environments and populations” in particular, genes involved in the adaptive response of a dominant grass to drought.
Originally from Hutchinson, KS, Matt received his B.S. in biology from Kansas State University. As an undergraduate he worked in the Johnson Lab investigating phenotypic variation in big bluestem across the Great Plains climate gradient. After graduating, Matt chose to complete a Master’s degree in the Johnson lab with the benefit to expand upon his undergraduate work by including genomic characterization of ecotypes by determining the underlying genomic variation controlling phenotypic differences and to quantify the outcome of long term selection in big bluestem. This has lead to receiving a Graduate Research Fellowship for his graduate work. His major research interest falls in utilizing next generation genomic methods to unravel the genetic controls of organismal response to changing climates in non-model organisms.
Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Samantha Sharpe majored in Biology at Carleton College, where she also swam, played water polo, and made friends with plants in the Arboretum. Samantha has previously studied the effects of abiotic stress on Arabidopsis root growth and development. She is interested in plant conservation and using interdisciplinary approaches to answer ecological questions. Her current work focuses on Andropogon virginicus, a species of prairie grass that is capable of colonizing a variety of highly disturbed habitats. Samantha is investigating the genetic and evolutionary basis of heavy metal tolerance in populations of A. virginicus growing in the Tar Creek Superfund Site, an abandoned lead and zinc mine.