My research interests lie in three distinct areas: plant stress physiology, the development of a fingerprint analysis for daylily varieties, and curriculum development.
One ongoing project involves using C-Fern to study the mechanisms associated with cadmium (Cd) toxicity and tolerance and identify genes involved. Heavy metal toxicity impacts a wide variety of plant biochemical and physiological processes. Metal homeostasis and tolerance are complex and involve regulating uptake and transport of metal ions, chelation of metal ions upon entry into the cytoplasm and/or compartmentalization of metal ions within cells and tissues. The most effective approach in sorting out how the contributing mechanisms interact in a way that translates into an effective strategy(s) for metal tolerance is to use mutants tolerant to higher levels of a given metal in comparative studies with a sensitive wild type strain. Students have successfully isolated three putative Cd-tolerant mutants of C-Fern (M1 generation). Future studies will involve confirming the tolerance of M2 spores to Cd, genetic characterization of the putative mutants, comparative studies using mutant and wild type strains to examine Cd accumulation and ion composition of gametophytes and sporophytes, and cross-tolerance studies examining the tolerance of wild type and mutant strains to other heavy metals.
A second area of interest is in the development of molecular fingerprints for daylily varieties. An estimated 52,000 daylily varieties are currently registered with the American Hemerocallis Society, with new varieties added regularly. Currently, varieties are identified by defined morphological descriptors, such as flower color and size, foliage features, etc. Morphological characters, however, can often be influenced by growing conditions, plant health and plant age, and thus can be insufficient or unreliable for clear identification. Thus far, studies have focused on the use of PCR-based approaches, including the use of random primers to generate RAPDS (randomly amplified polymorphic DNA sequences) and AFLP (amplified fragment length polymorphisms). These molecular markers would then be used to construct a molecular fingerprint for a given variety.
With respect to curriculum development, I am interested in having students develop laboratory exercises for upper level biology and biotechnology courses that use a current methodology/technique to study interesting and relevant phenomena or problems. Two recently developed laboratory exercises for a senior level plant physiology course include 'Quantification of ABA Levels in Plant Tissues Experiencing Increasing Levels of Soil Desiccation Using an Immunoassay' and 'Analysis of Light Induced Proteins in Pea Shoots using SDS-PAGE' . Both exercises were developed by undergraduate students.