Bertrand Black

Bertrand Black holding a fern

Profile

My research interests have been largely influenced by the life and work of the famous 18th century naturalist, Alexander von Humboldt. Like Humboldt, I seek to apply a multidisciplinary approach to research and incorporate aspects from various disciplines, such as systematics, ecology, and evolutionary biology. In 2019, I joined the Barrington Lab as a PhD student to uncover and characterize diversity, taxonomy and distribution of extant fern lineages. For my dissertation research, I chose to take up a systemic revision of the Athyrium filix-femina complex in the Americas using target-capture sequencing approach. Additionally, I have had opportunities to assist in the description of a new species of fern Lellingeria cantarensis from mountains of Panama and an ongoing project exploring the historical biogeography of lasteropsid ferns.

Research Description

My research interests draw inspiration from the life and work of the 18th-century naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. Like Humboldt, I aim to approach research with a multidisciplinary lens, incorporating elements from various fields like systematics, ecology, and evolutionary biology. In 2019, I became a PhD student in the Barrington Lab, to study the diversity, taxonomy, and distribution of extant fern lineages. For my dissertation research, I chose to conduct a systematic revision of the Athyrium filix-femina complex in the Americas using a target-capture sequencing approach. Additionally, I've had the opportunity to contribute to projects such as the description of a new fern species, Lellingeria cantarensis, found in the mountains of Panama and an ongoing project exploring the historical biogeography of lastreopsid ferns. Outside of the lab, I have had the amazing opportunities to gain additional field experience through courses in in both Mexico and Costa Rica. After graduate school, I hope to continue researching fern diversity and biogeography both in the lab and through field studies.

Nicole Gorman

Nicole Gorman on a mountain top

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Originally from the north fork of Long Island, I grew up surrounded by potato and sod farms, most of which have now been transformed into vineyards. This rural setting fostered a love of the outdoors and curiosity about plants and the production of food. As a result, I headed to UVM and graduated with a BS in Plant and Soil Science. I returned to UVM to pursue a MS in Plant and Soil Science, focusing on the fascinating partnership between plants and mycorrhizae. After raising our two kids and teaching high school biology for several years, I am back at UVM once again, this time to pursue a PhD in Plant Biology. In my free time, I like to get outside as much as possible - skiing, running, biking, and hiking, as well as spending time with my family and friends.

Research Description

The organization and movement of materials within cells is a precisely regulated process that requires specific mechanisms to ensure proper cell function. The observation of changes in phenotype, such as root morphology, can be used as a method to analyze the function of specific genes. Previous work in the Tierney Lab has identified changes in primary root morphology associated with the lack of function of specific proteins, including CCDC22 and CCDC93. The function of these proteins has been associated with the trafficking of materials in human cells, however their role in plants remains unclear. As a first-year PhD student, I am in the Tierney Lab for the fall semester working on a rotation project exploring the intersection of the function of each of these proteins and the major classes of plant hormones in the model organism Arabidopsis. The purpose of the study is to determine if these proteins are involved in the molecular pathways controlled by plant hormones. The results of the investigation will be used to probe further into the specific function(s) of CCDC22 and CCDC93.

David Green

David Green in the lab

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I am a non-binary individual originally from Massachusettes and came up to UVM to do my undergraduate degree in Plant Biology. I have continued my education at UVM to get my PhD in Plant Biology. I have always been interested in the way that things work; all the way from computers to biological organisms, I have always been fascinated by the 'why' of anything. I also love many things outside of academics such as music (listening to it and making it), nature, hiking, biking, and making delicious meals with my partner.

Research Description

My research is in observing the mechanisms behind salt stress and how it affects different aspects of growth in legumes. Right now I am running experiments to see if there is a systemic or local response to salt stress and testing if it is regulated by the growth hormone abscisic acid. I currently work in the Harris Lab under the advisement of Jeanne Harris.

Masoumeh Khodaverdi

Masoumeh Khodaverdi outside

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I grew up in Tehran, Iran. My academic life began by obtaining a B.Sc. degree in Plant Science. I pursued my studies with a focus on floral organ development, working on various species with the purpose of forecasting productivity of crops. In this line of research, I learned about a wide variety of microscopy imaging techniques. These techniques not only helped me in my research activities, but also aroused my artistic faculties (hence I took part in several microscopy imaging competitions, achieving the 9th rank among 2000 competitors). I got my masters from the Plant Science and Biotechnology Department at Syracuse University, where I also had the opportunity to work in Moz-Lab as a research assistant utilizing biotechnology tools for creating novel polymer-based materials. Aside from research, I enjoy photography, cooking desserts, and traveling to explore new places.

Research Description

My research interest is influenced by my diverse background relevant to topics such as microscopy techniques and molecular biology. I have joined Dr. Jill Preston's lab as a PhD student to study evolutionary genetics of Pooidea grass species. My current project is comprised of investigating the origin of cold-responsive genes in Melica and characterizing variation of vernalization across various climates.

Ashley Lantigua

Ashley Lantigua with orange wildflowers and mountains

Profile

Hi! I am a first-gen Latina from New York City. I grew up exploring my father's garden, developing a passion for observing and trying to understand the natural world. I earned a bachelor's degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Boston University, where I sharpened my attention to detail and technique. In 2017, I discovered the exceptional UVM Plant Biology Department, where in the Harris Lab, I studied salt and its effect on the symbiotic relationship between legumes and rhizobia, specifically in nodule development and function. Here, I developed a strong understanding of hypothesis testing and experimental design. Later, I continued to polish my experimental skills in the Riley Lab at UC Berkeley by working closely with a biotech company, Silver Lake Research, on optimizing a point-of-care assay that would aid in determining Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) with antibiotic resistance. At Novartis Institute of Tropical Diseases (NITD), I gained further genetic and microscopy skills in the Open Innovation program, studying the host cell-pathogen response between the liver-stage malaria parasite Plasmodium and liver cells for host-directed therapeutic applications.

While living in California for five years, I reconnected and developed a deep affinity with the earth and an interest in coding and bioinformatics. In 2022, I returned to the UVM Plant Biology department as a Ph.D. student to work in the Preston lab. Specifically, I am interested in dissecting the growth and stress resiliency relationship in the wild grass crop relative, Brachypodium distachyon, to determine how trait correlations might affect plant responses to climate change. You can find me hiking and botanizing the flora of Vermont with my pup Velma.

Connor Lewis

 Connor Lewis outside

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I grew up in Conway, Massachusetts and moved to Burlington in 2011 to pursue my undergraduate studies. Since then I have earned B.S. degrees in Ecological Agriculture and Molecular Genetics, managed a 12-acre vineyard for a year, and begun my graduate studies. In Burlington I found the perfect place to enjoy my hobbies including: snowboarding, mountain biking, fishing, gardening, and baseball.

Research Description

The conservation of genes encoding protein complexes or networks that perform vital cellular functions such as transcription, translation, metabolic processes, and vesicular trafficking is often broad, sometimes spanning across kingdoms. Therefore, when the function of a protein (VPS26C) the Tierney lab had been studying in Arabidopsis upon my joining the lab was functionally characterized in exquisite detail in human cell culture and we noticed that members of the vesicular trafficking pathway in which it participates are conserved but uncharacterized in Arabidopsis, I began my study of two of these proteins, CCDC22 and CCDC93. Since joining the Tierney lab I have identified short root and root hair phenotypes of ccdc22 and ccdc93 mutants and implicated ccdc93 in a vacuolar trafficking pathway involving VTI13. Current efforts include identifying proteins that CCDC22 and CCDC93 are capable of physically interacting with and further resolving their roles in vesicular trafficking in Arabidopsis.

Sarah Morris

Sarah Morris outside in a wooded area near still water

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I am originally from St. Petersburg, Florida, and I received my BSc in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Florida in 2014. After several field ecology jobs and a stint in plant records at the Atlanta Botanic Garden in Atlanta, Georgia, I travelled to London to earn my MSc in Plant Taxonomy from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. It was there that I was introduced to the unique and hyper-diverse Chocó Biogeographic Region in northwest South America. I wrote my master’s thesis on the origin and diversification of the aroid mega-genus Anthurium in the Chocó and have continued studying the plants of the Chocó ever since. As part of the NSF-funded Ferns of Colombia project led by Michael Sundue, Wes Testo and Alejandra Vasco, I am now collecting ferns in this biodiversity hotspot for my dissertation (follow #FernsOfColombia for updates). In addition to research, I enjoy sewing, crochet and outdoor adventures with my rescue pup, Teeny, and my rabbit, Gouda.

Research Description

I am interested in the macroevolutionary patterns of speciation, or more specifically, how and why is there an unequal distribution of plants on Earth? I am investigating this question at 2 different scales: flora-wide (the fern flora of the Chocó Biogeographic Region) and within a single lineage (Pleopeltis, Polypodiaceae). 

At the flora scale, I am investigating the dynamics of speciation, extinction and migration that have shaped the lowland Chocoan fern flora and what role abiotic factors such as climate and mountain building played in its diversification.

Within the fern genus Pleopeltis, I am investigating questions about the intersection of traits, ecological niche, and speciation in addition to exploring the systematics and taxonomy of this group, which is found throughout the American Tropics.

You can follow my research on Google Scholar and Twitter.

Mark Mullinger

Mark Mullinger in front of long grasses

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Originally from Ohio, I completed a B.S. in Biology with a minor in Biochemistry from Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pennsylvania. During this degree I spent a field season working with the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) in Alaska as a research technician. While there I became fascinated with the plant communities of the Arctic and developed an interest in botany. In 2020 I achieved an MSc. in the Biodiversity and Taxonomy of Plants from the University of Edinburgh and Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in the UK. After graduating I spent two years working in the plant nursery trade specializing in the production and care of both woody and herbaceous perennial plants. Having experiences both in commercial horticulture and plant biology has made me interested in the different ways that humans interact with plants. Since moving to Vermont, I enjoy spending time outdoors and practicing music.

Research Description

My current research interests include systematics of grasses and the evolution and development of geophytic (belowground) structures in plants, especially bulbs, corms, and rhizomes. In the Preston Lab I’m working on a phylogeny of the grass genus Melica (Poaceae: Pooideae) to facilitate study of trait evolution in temperate grasses.

Sandra Nnadi

Headshot of Sandra Nnadi with red glasses in front of a painting

Profile

I am from the Southeast of Nigeria and obtained my Bachelor’s and Masters’ degree in Biochemistry from Ebonyi State University and The University of Ibadan respectively. My master’s thesis was on the Molecular diversity of genes involved in carotenoid biosynthesis in banana and plantain. Research work was done at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan, Nigeria.

I joined UVM to study for a PhD degree and currently work in the Harris Lab where I examine the link between the root fungal microbiome and aboveground traits (flower number, bud count, and anthocyanin content) of Northern Highbush Blueberry. I have served as a Graduate Student Senate (GSS) Secretary, GSS Senator and member of the department’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion committee. Also, I am a member of the Plant Biology social media team and President of the Graduate Student Parents Club. For fun, I love cooking, sewing, and painting with my 6-year-old son.

Twitter: @sandrannadi1
Instagram: @senatorsandrelle

Anoob Prakash

Headshot of Anoob Prakash on a mountaintop with sunglasses

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I hail from “the God’s own country,” Kerala, a small southern state in India. I completed my B.Sc. (Hons.) and M.Sc. in Forestry with specialization in Tree Physiology and Breeding at Kerala Agricultural University. During that time, I investigated the effects of particulate pollution on the growth and physiology of trees in moist deciduous forests. I worked as a teaching assistant for two years after my masters which was a very rewarding experience. In addition to research, I love to read, hike, illustrate and play basketball.

Research Description

Forest fragmentation and it’s ecological consequences have always intrigued me. I am interested in studying the effects of climate change on the local adaptation and gene flow of forest tree species. Currently, I am a graduate student in Keller lab, trying to understand climate adaptation of red spruce (Picea rubens Sarg.). I am particularly interested in understanding the role played by genetics and environment on its growth and phenology. Another question I have recently started to tackle is impact of introgression with black spruce (Picea mariana) that would be affecting its local adaptation. As an NSF QuEST trainee, I have also worked with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to utilize and apply the knowledge we gained on red spruce in assisting with restoration efforts in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. You can follow my research on Google scholar and GitHub.

Julie Raiguel-Meis

Julie Raiguel-Meis outside, large expanse

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I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA.  Throughout high school, I was sure I would become a marine biologist.  While I am still an avid SCUBA diver, I fell in love with plants while pursuing my B.S. in biology at the College of Charleston in South Carolina.  In Charleston, I spent a semester working in a plant pathology lab at the USDA Vegetable Laboratory and a year on campus in Dr. Seth Pritchard's lab developing a steam girdling method for inducing fine root senescence.  After completing my undergraduate degree, I spent a year as the School and Youth Education Intern at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA, helping to combat plant blindness in K-12 students of the area. 

Research Description

I am now pursuing a Master's Degree at UVM and working in the Harris Lab, where I am investigating a gene thought to be involved in legume nodulation.  Generally, I am interested in how plants interact with the biotic and abiotic stimuli in their environment.

Greta Savitsky

Greta Savitsky with blue sky

Profile

I grew up in Williamstown, Massachusetts where I enjoyed hiking, running, and nordic skiing in local forests. After two summers working at a small organic farm in high school, I fell in love with plants and conservation. I studied conservation biology at Middlebury College, where I developed a love of forest ecology, human-nature interactions, and systems thinking, as well as becoming familiar with Vermont forests. After a year living in Colorado, I returned to Vermont to pursue a PhD in Plant Biology at UVM. Here in Burlington, I still enjoy hiking and skiing, as well as spending time with my friends and cats, playing music, and growing my houseplant collection.

Research Description

My research is centered around the interactions between forest composition, human impact, global climate change, and fire ecology. With the use of computational tools like Bayesian statistical models and cellular automata, I compare simulated forest compositional data with actual data to ask and answer ecological questions about past and current fire regimes. I work with a variety of forest systems, including the rock pinelands of Florida and the northern hardwood forests of Vermont.

Hannah Shafer

Hannah Shafer in front of lake and mountains

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I’m originally from the suburbs of Connecticut, and got my love for science and lab work through an internship-based class in high school, where I got to work under a graduate student at UConn in a microbiology lab. Following this experience, I attended Oberlin College, where I received my B.A. in Biology. During my time at Oberlin, I spent many weekends and school breaks with my hands in the dirt, farming. This pursuit made me fall in love with plants and biology even more, and motivated me to seek opportunities at the intersection of agriculture and biology. This led me to an internship at The Land Institute after graduating from Oberlin, where I fell in love with prairie grasses and the idea of regenerative agriculture. Today I am grateful to still be studying agriculturally important grasses, now here at UVM in the Preston Lab and as an NSF QuEST Trainee. In addition to research, I enjoy fiber arts, cooking, hiking, and kayaking.

Research Description

My research is focused on the genetic pathways that regulate grass flowering, in a temperate group of species that includes wheat, barley, and rye. These species have several cold temperature-induced genetic pathways, including the vernalization response. This response allows grasses to survive the winter and flower in spring, after the threat of freezing temperatures has passed. I study the reversal of this response: devernalization. This has exciting agricultural and climate change implications for future breeding of resilient crops.

Morgan Southgate

 Morgan Southgate kneeling on the ground outside

Profile

While growing up in the northeast, I developed a love for plants that led me to major in Plant Biology when I started at UVM as an undergraduate in 2013. I was quickly captivated by the detailed education in plant biology that I received from a diverse set of systematic, evolutionary, physiological, and ecological perspectives. While an undergraduate, I worked at the Pringle Herbarium and the Proctor Maple Research Center, and joined the Barrington Fern Systematics lab. Here, I focused my undergraduate thesis on the ecology and evolution of the Adiantum pedatum complex, a clade of maidenhair ferns, in northeastern North America. I went on to develop the same project as a graduate thesis here at UVM.

Research Description

My passion is plant ecology.- specifically, seeking to understand the forces shaping plant distribution, and untangling how these vary across spatial scales. The focus of my research is to characterize the ecological outcome of hybridization in the Adiantum pedatum complex, which comprises three closely-related speces. At a fine spatial scale, I have established over 100 survey plots across northeastern North America to characterize edaphic and other fine-scale ecological variables. At a coarse-scale, I have utilized ecological niche modeling of climatic variables based on the ENVIREM data-set in combination with range-wide species occurrences. Most recently, I've been seeking to understand the role of the gametophyte phase in shaping the distribution of the Adiantum pedatum complex. To evaluate the fitness of Adiantum gametophytes across a range of soil types, I conducted a six-month reciprocal growth experiment. A list of my publications related to this work can be found on Google Scholar.

Charlotte Uden

Charlotte Uden in a canoe

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I am from Canterbury, England, but spent my undergraduate years at Bennington College in southern Vermont. I studied forest ecology and was interested in the impact of historic forest fragmentation and land use on species composition. I like spending time with my dog, skiing and going to see the overwhelming supply of live music that Burlington has to offer.

Research Description

Currently, I am a graduate student in the Beckage lab working with LPJ-GUESS, a dynamic terrestrial ecosystem model. The model will be used to project forest composition at the time of European settlement. Ultimately, I hope to use shifts in species composition that result from alternative fire intervals to gain insight into human-induced fire frequency at the time. 

Regina Visconti

Regina Visconti with house plants

Profile

Originally hailing from Newington, CT I decided to uproot myself and move to Tampa to pursue a degree at the University of Tampa. It was here I earned my B.S. in biochemistry. After much deliberation, I decided to go to grad school here at UVM and take an interdisciplinary approach to plant biology. It was here that I discovered how wonderful it is to be so close to nature. I can frequently be found walking in the woods, and enjoying all the sunshine and water (snow) here. I love yoga and a variety of art forms.

Research Description

I joined the Tierney Lab in order to study endomembrane trafficking in Arabidopsis. I am  specifically looking at the role ER bodies and its' associated proteins have in response to stress. I will do this by monitoring whole plant phenotypes and fluorescent fusion proteins under normal and stressed conditions. I hope a better understanding of this ER body pathway will allow for further characterization of a plant's stress response that may even be applicable to species other than Arabidopsis thaliana.

Rachel Wilson

Rachel Wilson outside

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I grew up in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, and moved to Bowling Green, Ohio where I received my Bachelor’s and Master’s in Biology. During my time there I worked in several labs. I studied a pathogenic oomycete that causes Root Rot in Glycine max during my undergraduate career. During my Master’s I focused on the genetic basis of color polymorphisms in Lupinus perennis. In addition to my love of plants, I enjoy outdoor activities such as running and kayaking.

Research Description

My research is on the vesicle trafficking of plasma membrane proteins in Arabidopsis. Especially, I study the protein VTI13 and its role in trafficking to the vacuole. VTI13 is a type of SNARE protein found on early endosomes and the tonoplast that facilitates the fusion of membranes by targeting corresponding SNAREs on the target membrane. The vti13 knockout mutant has a short root hair phenotype. A proteomic analysis identified 3 plasma membrane proteins as potential cargo for VTI13 endosomes: patelline 1 (PATL1), Arabidopsis Proton ATPase 1 (AHA1), and Arabidopsis Proton ATPase 2 (AHA2). I have created transgenic lines in Arabidopsis expressing these proteins tagged with RFP (Red Fluorescence Protein). My aim is to show these proteins are cargo of VTI13 through colocalization of RFP-tagged plasma membrane proteins with a tagged GFP VTI13. Additionally, I am investigating how this pathway impacts growth and development in my work.

Baxter Worthing

Baxter Worthing outside

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I grew up in Brunswick, Maine. I completed a B.S. and M.S. in Biology at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. While at Clark, I conducted my undergraduate and graduate research in the lab of Dr. Deb Robertson, where I studied the genetics of marine diatoms. In my free time, I enjoy skiing, biking, hiking, juggling and trying new foods.

Research Description

I am fascinated by the role that environmental change plays in shaping both the short-term, transcriptional changes observed in individuals and the long-term evolutionary paths taken by populations. I am particularly interested in using genetics and genomics to characterize adaptation to new and/or challenging environments. In the Keller Lab, I study genomic variation in poplar trees, with a particular focus on interspecific hybridization, phenology and cold tolerance.