2016 Mentors and Projects
Plant Systematics, Conservation Biology, and Ethnobotany

Allison Miller

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Allison Miller

Associate Professor of Biology, Saint Louis University; Research Associate, MBG

Building a botanical foundation for sustainable agriculture: ethnobotany, morphology, geography, and population genetics of emerging crops. Miller is an associate professor at Saint Louis University (SLU) and a research associate of the Missouri Botanical Garden; her primary research interests include the genetics of domestication. The proposed REU project is part of an exciting, novel collaboration between SLU, MBG, and The Perennial Agriculture Project, in conjunction with the Malone Family Land Preservation Foundation and The Land Institute (Salina, KS), which aims to systematically evaluate wild, perennial herbaceous and shrubby grain, legume, and oilseed species for inclusion in pre-breeding and domestication programs. The long-term goal of this project is to advance sustainable agriculture and ecosystem security through the incorporation of perennial species into large-scale contemporary agriculture. Because perennial grain, legume, and oilseed-producing species are not well-represented among contemporary domesticates, targeted breeding programs in wild, previously undomesticated species offer one major pathway to the development of perennial crops. Promising candidates for pre-breeding and domestication will be identified by extracting and analyzing information obtained from available sources (literature, on-line databases, herbaria and living collections). The REU student will work on one or a small group of closely related grain or legume species and will conduct ethnobotanical analyses from existing literature, generate morphological data from herbarium specimens, conduct GIS analysis of known distributions of the species, and conduct population genomic analyses of available germplasm. These data will extend a growing database of species with potential for pre-breeding, domestication, and use in perennial polyculture agriculture.

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