David Lowry

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.

Katherine Toll – Postdoc

I am interested in the evolutionary ecology of Mimulus. Some of the projects I work on include: the role of hybridization and inbreeding depression in habitat partitioning, the role of abiotic filtering in habitat specialization within the Mimulus guttatus complex, and the genetic basis of interspecific divergence in tolerance to abiotic stressors. 

Ian Willick – Postdoc

My research focuses on mechanisms underpinning the physiological, biochemical and molecular responses of switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) to low temperatures and desiccation. In addition, I am interested in the identification and characterization of novel ice and anti-ice nucleation promoting substances that enhance plant cold hardiness. Previously at the University of Saskatchewan (Canada), I studied the tissue-specific mechanism of freezing resistance in cold-acclimated winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) and rye (Secale cereale L.) crowns. Please see my website for more information on my published work. When not in the lab, I enjoy reading, gardening and watching hockey. 

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).  

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.

Matt Carey – Graduate Student

I’m interested in evolution, ecotype formation, and the range of gene expression across environments. I studied general biology at Norfolk State University. I’ve worked as a technician through the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with tall fescue in Charles Mitchell’s disease ecology lab. I’ve also done technician work through the University of Texas at Austin in Tom Juenger’s lab with a collaborative switchgrass project. I’m excited about using the robust resources surrounding the switchgrass system to build high-performing, optimized lines. I love to play soccer when I’m free.

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. 

Linnea Fraser – Technician

I’m interested in local adaptation and the formation of ecotypes as well as how plant communities spatially develop. In the Lowry lab I help Nate Emery, Ian Willick, and Acer VanWallendael with research on switchgrass stress responses. At Oberlin College, I did research on the invasion of the emerald ash borer using dendrochronology to understand the timing and impact of ash death on understory species. In my spare time I love to read, hunt for big trees, play ultimate frisbee, and draw.

Undergraduate Students

Sydney Burtovoy

Thomas Zambiasi

Lab Alumni

Former Postdocs

Ali Soltani – Research Scientist at Bayer Crop Science

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

Former Technicians

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

Marisa Iceberg – Marisa Iceberg Photography LLC

Garrett Mulanix

Former Undergraduate Researchers

Natalie Phillips – MSU Undergraduate

Dash Devanshi – MSU Undergraduate

Katy Ferro – MSU Undergraduate


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 Florida State University

Por Tangwancharoen  PhD Student  Scripps Institution of Oceanography