B.S. (Plant Sciences), Gustavus Adolphus College, 2012
My Master's thesis work is going to be focused on two core projects, both involving rust fungi. The first objective is to complete a Barley Leaf Rust Near-Isogenic Lines (NILs) development project. To do this, I will first be screening the original donor parents and their derived bowman-backcrossed NILs to a suite of Puccinia hordei isolates in order to obtain the final phenotypic dataset for this collection. Then, by combining their phenotypic and genotypic data, I will select the 20 most useful NILs for discerning the race ID of leaf rust isolates collected from the field. It is important that this information be made available to the public so that this valuable germplasm can be used to improve resistant cultivar application to regions around the world suffering from leaf rust.
The second objective within my master's thesis is to predict future mutations within the UG99 lineage that could increase its virulence against resistance genes. To do this, I will be mutagenizing the original UG99 isolate, genotyping all virulence, color, size, etc mutant pustules, and then using bioinformatics tools to decipher genotypic mutations associated with these mutant phenotypes. The idea behind this work is that by increasing the mutation rate of the fungus, we can study future genetic changes in virulence patterns within a containment facility before they emerge in the wild. If successful, the prediction of future virulence mutations in UG99 can prime wheat and barley breeders for preemptive breeding against further virulent races of stem rust that currently threaten the sustainability of these grain crops.