Benjamin Blackman, Professor

Open (1) Functional Genetics of Sunflower and Monkeyflower

Open. Apprentices needed for the fall semester. Please do NOT contact faculty before September 11th (the start of the 4th week of classes)! Enter your application on the web beginning August 16th. The deadline to apply is Tuesday, August 29th at 8 AM.

In order to test the function of specific genes or the impact of genetic variants on phenotype, genetic manipulation is required. The aim of the project is to assist with development and implementation of methods for genetic transformation of sunflower and monkeyflower, the two main study systems in the lab. These methods will help extend the lab's capabilities and in doing so allow us to study our traits of interest (flowering time regulation, solar tracking, floral pigmentation) with a greater level of mechanistic understanding and rigor.

The undergraduate will learn sterile technique and methods for plant tissue culture in the process of implementing and troubleshooting genetic transformation methods for sunflower and monkeyflower. Specific tasks will include media preparation, preparation of bacterial cultures, as well as the preparation, selection, and culture of plant explants.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Srinidhi Holalu, Post-Doc

Weekly Hours: 9-12 hrs

Related website: http://people.virginia.edu/~bkb2f/Blackman_Lab/

Open (2) Genetics of Adaptation to Seasonal Cues in Monkeyflowers

Open. Apprentices needed for the fall semester. Please do NOT contact faculty before September 11th (the start of the 4th week of classes)! Enter your application on the web beginning August 16th. The deadline to apply is Tuesday, August 29th at 8 AM.

Many plant species monitor day length as an environmental cue for the annual timing of the growing season since photoperiod is a very reliable indicator of calendar date for a given location. However, since the time of year most favorable for reproduction varies geographically, different populations have evolved different responses to day length to adapt to this spatial heterogeneity in seasonal timing. Understanding how these adaptations to climate variation across space have evolved will help us understand mechanisms by which plants can evolve to cope with a changing climate over time. We are studying the genetics of this important aspect of local adaptation in the common monkeyflower, Mimulus guttatus. Populations of this species will only flower at times of year when days are sufficiently long, but the threshold day length varies with elevation such that populations at high elevation (i.e., areas with later starting springs) require longer day lengths than populations at low elevation. We have identified several regions of the genome involved in divergence in this trait between high and low elevation populations, and we are now developing additional genetic mapping resources to narrow down these regions to the individual causative genes. Similarly, we are breeding low elevation alleles into high elevation backgrounds to do follow up studies of gene expression to see how these variants impact the environmental and genetic regulation of flowering. The URAP student will assist with these breeding and mapping projects through contributing to plant growth, crossing, phenotyping, and genotyping efforts.

The undergraduate researchers will grow, care for, and cross monkeyflowers as part of our efforts to develop advanced generation mapping panels and isogenic lines, and they may also be involved in scoring of germination and flowering of these plants under controlled photoperiod conditions. They will collect tissue for DNA extraction, and depending on progress and success, may also take part in DNA isolation and genotyping efforts.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Kelsie Morioka, Staff Researcher

Qualifications: Students with strong interests in plant-environment interaction, genetics, evolution, and ecology will find the experience most rewarding. Attention to detail and good record keeping skills are essential. The student should be comfortable and enthusiastic about working in greenhouse and growth chamber conditions for extended periods, and they will be expected to follow guidelines for safely doing so.

Weekly Hours: 6-9 hrs

Related website: http://nature.berkeley.edu/blackmanlab

Open (3) Circadian Clocks and Plant Development

Open. Apprentices needed for the fall semester. Please do NOT contact faculty before September 11th (the start of the 4th week of classes)! Enter your application on the web beginning August 16th. The deadline to apply is Tuesday, August 29th at 8 AM.

Growth and reproduction are highly regulated processes in composite plants like sunflower which produce disks that are clusters of many individual flowers. Environmental cues like light and temperature interact with the circadian clock regulate what time of the season buds first start to develop, and the same integration of internal and external signals likely occurs as new whorls individual florets open daily to present pollen and receptive stigmas at reproductive maturity. Sunflower stems also grow with diurnal rhythms coordinated by environmental factors and the circadian clock that lead to the solar tracking behavior by which they bend from east to west during the day and back to east at night. Because the timing and nature of environmental signals varies across the landscape, natural variation in how flowering responds to these cues evolves to allow plants to flower at the correct time of the season. For instance, we have found the wild sunflower populations change from being day-length insensitive to short-day responsive to long-day responsive in their flowering time as one moves from North to South over sunflower's range in the central US. We have mapped the genetic factors contributing to these evolutionary transitions to a handful of genomic regions, and the undergraduate(s) working on this project may help to conduct genotyping and gene expression studies to define those intervals and underlying candidate genes further. We are also curious to determine whether environmental control of floret maturation and daily patterns of solar tracking by sunflower stems show similar variation or geographic patterning in sunflower, and the undergraduate(s) working on this project will analyze time-lapse videos taken in the field this summer to investigate. Finally, because these field studies are ongoing, the students may have some opportunity to travel to field sites to assist with data collection or other field site needs.

The undergraduate researchers will grow and care for sunflowers being used for studies of natural variation, and they may also be involved in scoring of flowering time, solar tracking, and floret maturation of these plants under controlled photoperiod or greenhouse conditions. They will collect tissue for DNA or RNA extraction, and depending on progress and success, may also take part in DNA/RNA isolation and genotyping/qRT-PCR efforts. The student will also be invited to participate in weekly Blackman lab group meetings.


Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Kelsie Morioka, Staff Researcher

Qualifications: Students with strong interests in plant-environment interaction, evolution, and ecology will find the experience most rewarding. Attention to detail and good record keeping skills are essential. The student should be comfortable and enthusiastic about intermittently working in greenhouse, growth chamber, or field conditions for extended periods, and they will be expected to follow guidelines for safely doing so.

Weekly Hours: 6-9 hrs

Related website: http://nature.berkeley.edu/blackmanlab

Open (4) Genetics of Floral Pigmentation Patterns

Open. Apprentices needed for the fall semester. Please do NOT contact faculty before September 11th (the start of the 4th week of classes)! Enter your application on the web beginning August 16th. The deadline to apply is Tuesday, August 29th at 8 AM.

During floral development, patterns of pigment are painted on to the petals of many plants, and these pigments often serve to attract and direct bee pollinators toward pollen and nectar rewards. We have found several natural variants affecting the nectar guide pigmentation patterns of the common monkeyflower in both the visible and UV spectrums, and we are pursuing genetic studies to determine what specific molecular changes have occurred to disrupt these patterns. In doing so, we hope to learn more about the mechanisms that specify where and when petal cells develop pigmentation and the ecological processes that maintain variation in these patterns in nature.

The student will grow monkeyflower populations for trait mapping, score pigmentation phenotypes, conduct pollinations to do further genetic crosses, and harvest tissue and seed. Attention to detail and good record keeping are essential. Experience with plant husbandry is desirable. The student will also be invited to participate in weekly Blackman lab group meetings.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Ben Blackman, Staff Researcher

Qualifications: tudents with strong interests in evolution, development, and genetics will find the experience most rewarding. Attention to detail and good record keeping skills are essential. The student should be comfortable and enthusiastic about working in greenhouse and growth chamber conditions for extended periods, and they will be expected to follow guidelines for safely doing so.

Weekly Hours: 6-9 hrs

Related website: http://nature.berkeley.edu/blackmanlab