People



David Lowry

I am an Associate Professor at Michigan State University in the Department of Plant Biology and a team leader for the DOE Great Lake Bioenergy Research Center. I grew up in the countryside near Sebastopol, CA and received my BS in Genetics and Plant Biology from the University of California, Berkeley. From there, I spent three years working in field biology in California, Montana, and Venezuela. My PhD dissertation research at Duke University focused on understanding the evolutionary genetic basis of adaptation and speciation in the yellow monkeyflower, Mimulus guttatus. I was a USDA NIFA postdoctoral fellow at The University of Texas at Austin, where I conducted research on the genetics and physiology of environmental stress tolerance in switchgrass. After a short stint as an Assistant Professor at California State University, Monterey Bay, I was hired at Michigan State University. I am currently on sabbatical through May 2023 at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia 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.


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.

Website: dnanstett.wordpress.com


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

I consider myself an evolutionary ecologist. I am broadly interested in how plasticity, gene by environment interactions and genetic variation contribute to adaptation in plants. My previous research sought to understand genotypic variation in transgenerational environmental effects in Arabidopsis thaliana. In my personal time I enjoy all things outdoors, gardening and watching basketball. 


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. 


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.


Undergraduate Students

Sydney Burtovoy

Sarah Roberts

Lane Vitek

Will McDonald


Lab Alumni

Former Postdocs

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)

Nate Emery – STEM Success Education Coordinator at UC Santa Barbara

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 – National Park Ranger

Former Technicians

Thomas Zambiasi – PhD Student at Indiana University

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

Linnea Fraser – MS Student at Indiana University

Katelynn Walter – Scientist at Aardevo

Marisa Iceberg – Marisa Iceberg Photography LLC

Former Undergraduate Researchers

Natalie Phillips – MSU Undergraduate

Dash Devanshi – MSU Undergraduate

Katy Ferro – MSU Undergraduate

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Darlene BrennanMSU Undergraduate

Erin GumpperMSU Undergraduate

Maria DeNunzio – MSU Undergraduate

John Wrath – Summer Genomics@MSU REU

Jim Cramton – Summer Genomics@MSU REU

Karen Chanchavac – Summer Genomics@MSU REU

Josh McCauleySummer 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

Sumaetee Por Tangwancharoen – Now a faculty member at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand