I am an Associate Professor at Michigan State University in the Department of Plant Biology. I am interested in understanding the ecological, genetic, and physiological mechanisms of evolutionary adaptations in plants and how those adaptations contribute to the formation of new species. I grew up in Sonoma County, CA. I currently live in East Lansing, MI with my wife, Sheril Kirshenbaum, and two sons.
Acer VanWallendael – Postdoc
My research is on the genetic basis of rust tolerance in the biofuel grass Panicum virgatum (switchgrass). In addition, I am interested in the effects of polyploidy on phenotypic traits involved in local adaptation in tetraploid and octoploid populations of switchgrass. My previous work focused on an invasive polyploid Reynoutria japonica (Japanese knotweed), and in the future I hope to continue using interesting plant species to study how organisms adapt to their environment. I enjoy canoeing, skiing, cooking, reading science fiction (although there isn’t enough biology-based sci fi), and teaching people about evolution.
Kyle Christie – Postdoc
I am broadly interested in questions and phenomena lying at the intersection of evolution and ecology, including the evolution of reproductive isolation, the effects of heterospecific reproductive interactions, and local adaptation. For my Ph.D. work I explored patterns and mechanisms of reproductive isolation in California Jewelflowers (Streptanthus), a diverse and fascinating group of plants common on serpentine substrates in California. I am currently studying evolutionary responses to climate change and patterns of local adaptation in Plantago patagonica, using a combination of resurrection and reciprocal garden approaches. I am co-advised by Dr. Liza Holeski at Northern Arizona University. Outside of academia, I am interested in canyons, mountains, bikes, woodworking, chess, and chickens.
Nate Emery – Postdoc
I am a plant ecophysiologist interested in how plants move water and the eco/evo consequences of variation in plant water movement. Another passion of mine is pedagogy and professional development of scientific teaching practices. I currently conduct research in both disciplines and I’m excited to be working in the Lowry lab as part of the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center. I’ll be investigating variation in switchgrass water movement, photosynthesis, and stomata. I received my PhD from UC Santa Barbara in 2016 working on foliar uptake of coastal fog and the implications for wildfire risk in California. In my spare time I enjoy ultimate frisbee, soccer, wood-working and hiking.
Lauren Stanley – Postdoc
I am interested in the genetic underpinnings of local adaptation, reproductive isolation, and speciation in monkeyflowers. My research focuses on the functional characterization of genes within a chromosomal inversion contributing to divergence between coastal perennial and inland annual ecotypes of Mimulus guttatus. In my PhD, I studied the developmental genetics of flower color in bee-pollinated and hummingbird-pollinated Mimulus species. In addition to monkeyflowers, I love running, hiking, tea, and spoiling my cat Fern.
Leslie Kollar – Postdoc
I am a population and quantitative geneticist broadly interested in understanding the selective forces involved in the maintaining genetic variation in natural populations. During my Ph.D work I primarily focused on the evolution of sexual dimorphism and the role of sexual conflict in maintaining genetic variation in the moss, Ceratodon purpureus. I specifically studied a “pollination-like” syndrome where female moss volatiles attract sperm dispersing microarthropods, increasing fertilization events in the population. I am currently co-advised with Dr. Chad Niederhuth (MSU) and I am studying salt tolerance and gene regulatory divergence in coastal perennial and inland annual ecotypes of Mimulus guttatus using a combination of ATAC-seq and transcriptomics. I am also passionate about accessibility in mentorship practices in laboratory and classrooms settings. When I am not working on moss or Mimulus, I enjoy running, hiking, and my adorable cats, Lucy (named after the Neanderthal) and Mylo (named after a Coldplay album).
Daniel Anstet – Postdoc
I am an evolutionary ecologist who studies adaptation across large climatic gradients. I study rapid evolutionary responses to climate change across the range of an organism and the landscape genomics underlying these adaptations. My work largely focuses on adaptation to drought, and herbivory and plant defense. My research uses a variety of techniques ranging from chemical ecology and genomics, to greenhouse experiments and field ecology. During my PhD I studied latitudinal gradients in herbivory and plant defense in evening primrose, Oenothera biennis at the University of Toronto. I carried out my first postdoc at UBC working on rapid adaptation to drought and landscape genomics of assisted migration using a timeseries of seed collections from scarlet monkeyflower, Mimulus cardinalis. In my spare time I enjoy running, cycling, photography, gaming, and everything science fiction.
Madison Plunkert – Graduate Student
I am interested in the evolutionary genetics of floral traits in monkeyflower. My previous research examined the genetic mechanisms of compound leaf development and vegetative tissue pigmentation in the woodland strawberry. Outside the lab, I enjoy reading, birdwatching, and playing the violin.
Jason Olsen – Graduate Student
My interests lie in the integration of evolution and genetics. My primary interest is local adaptation in plants and the underlying genetic mechanisms. I have particular interest in the Growth-Defense trade-off hypothesis, that plants cannot be both high growing and well defended under all circumstances. My previous work has been with Bochera stricta (Drummond’s rockcress) a North American mustard weed and exploring constraints to range expansion and growth-defense trade-offs. In the Lowry Lab, I am working with Mimulus guttatus (yellow monkeyflower) and exploring genetic differences in locally adapted populations which have different allocations to growth and defense. Outside of work, I am an avid reader and evangelize for my favorite author, Brandon Sanderson. Other interests include games, computers and my wonderful kitty.
Andrew Bleich – Graduate Student
Showkat Gojery – Visiting Graduate Student
Lisa Vormwald – Technician
I am the lead technician at Kellogg Biological Station, overseeing the field data collection and greenhouse work there. I have a MS in Wildlife Science and a graduate certificate in Geographic Information Systems. In my spare time you can usually find me on a bike exploring the dirt roads of Michigan. I also enjoy birding, kayaking, hiking, strength training, and photography.
Thomas Zambiasi – Technician
Charles Thuruthiyil – Technician
As a research technician Dr. VanWallendael hired me to assist with his proso millet breeding program. My job requires me to handle many tasks such as growing plants from around the world, conducting DNA extraction protocols, and collecting data to improve breeding applications. My previous work experience involved harvesting research corn, research wheat, and with the Lowry lab research switchgrass. After work when I’m not cheering for my favorite sports teams you can find me exercising or just chilling at home.
Ali Soltani – Research Scientist at Bayer Crop Science
Ian Willick – Research Scientist at the Kentville Research and Development Centre (Agriculture and Agrifood Canada, Nova Scotia)
Billie Gould – Senior Computational Biologist at Freenome
Katherine Toll – Postdoc at Oklahoma State University
Yani Chen – Associate Scientist at Iowa State University
Murilo Peixoto – Postdoc at Washington State University
Former Graduate Students
Fateme Shaki – University of Tehran
Caitlyn Byron – Michigan State University
Damian Popovic – Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Darlene Brennan – PhD Student at University of Nebraska
Danny Jackson – PhD Student at Arizona State University
Amy Wrobleski – PhD Student at Pennsylvania State University
Connor Lamb – MS Student at Wayne State University
Katelynn Walter – Scientist at Aardevo
Linnea Fraser – Field Technician Bloomington, IN
Marisa Iceberg – Marisa Iceberg Photography LLC
Former Undergraduate Researchers
Natalie Phillips – MSU Undergraduate
Dash Devanshi – MSU Undergraduate
Katy Ferro – MSU Undergraduate
Darlene Brennan – MSU Undergraduate
Erin Gumpper – MSU Undergraduate
Maria DeNunzio – MSU Undergraduate
John Wrath – Summer Genomics@MSU REU
Jim Cramton – Summer Genomics@MSU REU
Karen Chanchavac – Summer Genomics@MSU REU
Josh McCauley – Summer Kellogg Biological Station REU
Outstanding Undergraduates Mentored Prior to MSU
Ashley Asmus Postdoc at University of Minnesota and coordinating scientist for NutNet
Jacob Heiling Postdoc at Clemson University
Por Tangwancharoen PhD Student Scripps Institution of Oceanography