Saint Louis University
• Perennial crops diversity and evolution
• Plant population genetics
• Domesticated trees and their wild relatives
Building a botanical foundation for sustainable agriculture: characterizing patterns of variation and covariation in herbaceous perennials. Miller is a Professor at Saint Louis University (SLU), a Member and Principal Investigator at the Danforth Plant Science Center (DPSC), and a Research Associate of the Missouri Botanical Garden. Her primary research interests include the genetics of domestication in woody and herbaceous perennials. The proposed REU project is part of an exciting, novel collaboration between SLU, DPSC, 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 have been identified by extracting and analyzing information obtained from available sources (literature, on-line databases, herbaria and living collections). However, due to the multi-year lifespan inherent to perennial species the domestication process is slower compared to annual counterparts. One way to expedite this process is to identify traits expressed earlier in the life cycle that correlate to yield. To identify traits that correlate with yield, the Miller Lab is currently conducting an intensive survey of traits expressed early in the life cycle for 12 perennial candidate species. The research plants were then moved into a newly constructed field site at the Shaw Nature Reserve where they will be further characterized through the winter and into next spring/summer. The REU student will work on one or a small group of the species included in this study to characterize traits in the field (traits can be focused on the interest of the perspective REU student but may include: plant size and growth rate, flowering time and duration, flower morphology, pollinator visitation, plant architecture, leaf-level physiology and seed production). The REU student will analyze relationships among traits to help inform a predictive model that will be applied to the current and future projects.