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Department of Biology

Genome-wide Association Mapping of Bio-fuel Traits in the Energy Crop Model, Brachypodium Distachyon

 All food crop varieties, regardless of species, must meet certain quality standards related to their role in food production. Humans have achieved these quality standards through millennia via the processes of domestication and breeding for improvement. Because use of plants for fuel is relatively recent, energy crops lack similar quality standards. There is a desire to create energy crops that will provide high biomass and high fuel yields while growing with few inputs on marginal land.

DNA Data Capture from Armored Scale Insect Specimens Intercepted in Plant Quarantine

Armored scale insects include many destructive pests of orchard crops, forestry, horticulture, and agriculture, costing an estimated two billion dollars per year in the US. They also have an extraordinary tendency to be invasive. As of 2005, the US had 132 species of armored scale insects introduced from other countries, comprising fully 40% of armored scale species in the US. Most of these (64%) were considered pests. About one new invasive diaspidid species is detected in the U.S. every year.

Iron Transport in Zea Mays

Our current ignorance of most of the mechanisms involved in plant iron homeostasis is a major obstacle in devising approaches for biofortification of staple foods with iron. Biofortification refers to the genetic engineering of staple crops to accumulate additional bioavailable iron in edible parts, and is widely regarded as a sustainable means of improving the iron nutrition of the 2-3 billion people worldwide (World Health Organization) whose inadequate diet causes iron deficiency anemia.

Surveying the Energy Crop Model Brachypodium Distachyon for Improved Thermo-Chemical and Biological Conversion Efficiency

Increased use of biomass fuels is a promising option for renewable fuels that could decrease our dependence on oil and reduce greenhouse gases. Unfortunately, we currently do not have clear knowledge about the plant traits that should be considered bioenergy traits and should be subjected to breeding and selection. We propose to use a grass energy model organism (Brachypodium distachyon), and treatment with two promising plant biomass transformation techniques (biological and thermochemical conversion) to examine the effect of natural diversity on biofuel production efficiency.

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