During floral development, patterns of pigment are painted on to the petals of many plants, and these pigments often serve to attract and direct bee pollinators toward pollen and nectar rewards. We have found several natural variants affecting the nectar guide pigmentation patterns of the common monkeyflower in both the visible and UV spectrums, and we are pursuing genetic studies to determine what specific molecular changes have occurred to disrupt these patterns. In doing so, we hope to learn more about the mechanisms that specify where and when petal cells develop pigmentation and the ecological processes that maintain variation in these patterns in nature.
The student will grow monkeyflower populations for trait mapping, score pigmentation phenotypes, conduct pollinations to do further genetic crosses, and harvest tissue and seed. They will collect tissue for DNA or RNA extraction, and depending on progress and success, may also take part in DNA isolation, genotyping, gene expression, tissue culture, or plant transformation efforts. The student will be encouraged to participate in weekly Blackman lab group meetings as well.
Students with strong interests in evolution, development, and genetics will find the experience most rewarding. Attention to detail and good record keeping skills are essential. The student should be comfortable and enthusiastic about working in greenhouse and growth chamber conditions for extended periods, and they will be expected to follow guidelines for safely doing so.