Research: Brunet Lab

Currently, I am a postdoctoral researcher in the lab. I have lots of fun and exciting projects going on in the lab right now. First, I am working on a mathematical model to explain and predict bee movements within and among fields. This model will help us understand gene flow (in this case how pollen is moving), and is being used specifically to understand transgenic (genetically engineered genes) gene flow. I use a probabilistic approach to model the movement behavior of bees based on years of (Brunet Lab) field and greenhouse experiments tracking bees.

Second, I am working on understanding population dynamics of weedy species. Specifically, I am working 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. So this wild carrot project I’ve started this year will run at least three years.

For the alfalfa project, I am going around the state looking for feral alfalfa (alfalfa that has escaped farms) and testing to see whether or not it contains the round-up ready gene. Today, my lab mate Molly showed me how to run the test for the roundup ready gene and I can report that the one plant I pulled from the bus station on Madison’s East side does not contain the roundup ready gene.

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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