Plant Systematics, Conservation Biology, and Ethnobotany


Allison Miller, Ph.D.

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Allison Miller, Ph.D.

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

Claudia Ciotir, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Researcher, Miller’s Lab, Saint Louis University

Sterling Herron
Ph.D. student, Miller’s Lab, Saint Louis University

Research Interests
• Perennial crops diversity and evolution
• Plant population genetics
• Domesticated trees and their wild relatives

Building a botanical foundation for sustainable agriculture: ethnobotany, morphology, and geography, and population genetics of emerging crops. Dr Miller and her team’s primary research interests include the genetics of domestication. The long-term goal of this project is to advance sustainable agriculture and ecosystem security through the incorporation of herbaceous and shrubby perennial grain, legume, and oilseed 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.  The proposed NSF REU project is part of an exciting, novel collaboration between The Land Institute (Salina, KS), Saint Louis University (St. Louis, MO), and the Missouri Botanical Garden (St. Louis, MO) that aims to systematically evaluate wild, perennial herbaceous and shrubby grain, legume, and oilseed species for inclusion in pre-breeding and domestication programs.  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), and by collecting and planting out a subset of taxa for live-plant analysis at The Shaw Nature Reserve. The REU student will work on one or a small group of closely related grain or legume species and may conduct ethnobotanical analyses from existing literature, generate morphological data from herbarium species, collect data on living plants housed at the Shaw Nature Reserve and/or in the greenhouses, or possibly 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. The precise nature of the work can be tailored to fit the interests of the REU student researchers.

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