Plant Systematics, Conservation Biology, and Ethnobotany


Emily Warschefsky, Ph.D.

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Emily Warschefsky, Ph.D.

Alice Brown Curator
Associate Scientist
William L. Brown Center

Research Interests
• Plant evolution, speciation, and hybridization
• Domestication genomics
• Crop genetic diversity and conservation
• Crop wild relatives

Genetic diversity of a historical maize collection. Warschefsky is an Associate Scientist interested in studying the genetic diversity of crops and their wild relatives. During the process of crop domestication, genetic diversity is often lost through a series of genetic bottlenecks. Researchers have commonly explored this phenomenon through comparisons of wild species to modern varieties. However, there is growing interest in understanding the loss of diversity during later stages of domestication, such as the transition from landraces to modern varieties. One way to achieve this goal is by utilizing historical collections housed in seedbanks and herbaria. In the early to mid-1900s, researchers at MBG and their collaborators amassed a collection of more than 8,000 ears of maize, representing landraces from across the globe, including hundreds of landraces from North America. Capitalizing on this unique resource, the REU student will perform the first analysis of genetic diversity from this collection, using previously generated genome-wide SNP data. The student will use R-packages and other software to learn how to calculate and interpret measures of genetic diversity and differentiation, examine population structure and relatedness, and compare their results to previous studies of maize diversity. As a whole, this project will introduce the student to foundational concepts in population genetics, domestication, and agrobiodiversity.

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