Plant Systematics, Conservation Biology, and Ethnobotany


Dr. Allison Miller

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Dr. Allison Miller

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

Research Interests

• Plant evolutionary biology
• Population genomics in crop species and their wild relatives
• Sustainable agriculture, crop improvement
• Conservation of plant genomic resources

Web Page: Miller Lab, Department of Biology, Saint Louis University

Project: Understanding adaptation to the abiotic environment in nature: morphological variation in two closely related grapevine species (Vitis riparia and V. rupestris). Naturally occurring variation found in locally adapted populations of crop wild relatives represents an important source of variation associated with abiotic (temperature, drought) and biotic (pests, pathogens) stress resistance. In Missouri, native grapes (Vitis spp.) have evolved in response to challenging climates such as extremely hot and humid summers, cold winters, and marginal soil conditions. Missouri grapevines are inter-fertile with one another and with the European grape (V. vinifera). In some ways, grapevines are unusual crops because cultivated varieties usually consist of two genetically distinct entities that are grafted to one another: the above-ground part of the plant (the scion) produces the stem, leaves, flowers, and berries, and the below-ground part (the rootstock) makes the lower stem and roots. Grafting in grapevine dates back to the mid-1800’s when insects in the genus Phylloxera devastated the French grape industry. Starting with this crisis, Missouri grapevines have been key genetic resources for the development of abiotic and biotic stress resistant rootstocks and hybrid grapes. Indeed, today the bulk of the grape industry in France consists of European grapes growing on American Vitis roots, including many from Missouri. Consequently, native Missouri Vitis species are important for local, national, and international grape and wine industries. The proposed project focuses on documenting morphological variation in a clade of two species of North American Vitis species. Vitis rupestris is extremely drought-tolerant, occurring on rocky, dry creek beds in Missouri and some surrounding states. Its closest relative, V. riparia is found in moister soils and in forests throughout the northeastern quarters of the United States. What are the morphological differences that distinguish these taxa? The undergraduate researcher will work closely with Dr. Miller and SLU PhD student Laura Klein, joining an ongoing project aimed at characterizing morphological variation in these two Vitis species using herbarium specimens, living plants in research vineyard located at the Missouri Botanical Garden, and field-collected data from natural populations. Morphometric data in conjunction with environmental data derived from GIS databases will be used to characterize patterns of morphological variation among species and across geographic space.

Selected Publications

• Jaillon O., Aury J.-M., Noel B. et al. 2007. The grapevine genome sequence suggests ancestral hexaploidization in major angiosperm phyla. Nature 449: 463-467.
• Aradhya, M., Y. Wang, M. A. Walker, B. H. Prins, A. M. Koehmstedt, D. Velasco, J. M. Gerrath, G. S. Dangl, and J. E. Preece. 2012. Genetic diversity, structure, and patterns of differentiation in the genus Vitis. Plant Systematics and Evolution. 10.1007/s00606-012-0723-4.
• Miller, A.J., N. Matasci, H. Schwaninger, M. Aradhya, B. Prins, G.-Y. Zhong, C. Simon, E. Buckler, and S. Myles. Vitis phylogenomics: hybridization intensities from a SNP array outperform genotype calls. PLoS One 8(11): e78680.
• Miller A.J. and B.L. Gross. 2011. From forest to field: perennial fruit crop domestication. American Journal of Botany 98: 1389-1414.
• Myles, S., A. R. Boyko, C. L. Owens, P. J Brown, F. Grassi, M. K. Aradhya, B. Prins, A. Reynolds, D. Ware, C. D. Bustamante, and E. S. Buckler. 2011. Genetic structure and domestication history of the grape. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108(9): 3530 – 3535.
• Schultz H.R. 2000. Climate change and viticulture: a European perspective on climatology, carbon dioxide and UV-B effects. Australian Journal of Grape Wine Research 6: 2-12.
• Zecca, G., J. R. Abbott, W. – B. Sun, A. Spada, F. Sala, and F. Grassi. 2012. The timing and mode of evolution of wild grapes (Vitis). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 62: 736-747.

Dr. Allison Miller Dr. Allison Miller
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