Research: Brunet Lab

From 2019 to 2021, I was a postdoctoral researcher in the Brunet lab. I had lots of fun and exciting projects going on in the lab. First, I worked on a mathematical model to explain and predict bee movements within and among fields. This model helps understand gene flow (in this case how pollen is moving), and is being used specifically to understand transgenic (genetically engineered genes) gene flow. I used a probabilistic approach to model the movement behavior of bees based on years of (Brunet Lab) field and greenhouse experiments tracking bees.

Second, I worked on understanding population dynamics of weedy species. Specifically, I worked on close relatives of alfalfa and carrot crops that grow along roadsides. The wild carrot project is fun because carrots generally live for two years. They emerge in the spring, grow all year, hibernate for the winter, emerge in the second spring, and flower in summer. However, it appears that within a population of wild carrots (Queen Anne’s Lace), some individuals live more or less than two years.

I studied feral alfalfa as reservoirs for man-made genes, pests, and diseases across the US. I spent a summer in Fresno and Walla Walla watching roadside alfalfa plants for pollinators and testing them for the RoundUp Ready gene. I analyzed data on the effects of pollinators on phenotypic selection and pollen deposition in alfalfa. I also worked in the field in Wisconsin with bees to study the effects of pollinators on gene flow from GM to conventional plants.

Additionally, I help out as needed with data analysis from projects of the past. Dr. Brunet, Dr. Austin Bauer, and I are currently working on a manuscript identifying the role of bee visits to alfalfa evolution. This process is known as phenotypic selection – where the bees are selecting a phenotype (e.g., plant color, number of flowers, etc.) and driving plant evolution. We measured the number of bee visits to each plant, some plant traits, and the number of seeds created by each plant to determine how bees influenced the number of offspring. We found some pretty cool results using linear regression and multivariate regression techniques.

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