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Researchers Receive $3.7M NSF Grant for Hardwood Tree Genomics

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Science Foundation has awarded a team of researchers from seven universities a $3.7 million award to develop genomic resources to address the health of hardwood trees.

The effort will involve researchers from Pennsylvania State University; the University of Notre Dame; University of Tennessee at Knoxville; University of Missouri; Clemson University; Michigan Technological University; and University of West Alabama.

John Carlson, a professor of molecular genetics at Penn State's School of Forest Resources and director of the Schatz Center for Tree Molecular Genetics, is the principal investigator on the project.

With the increasing incidence of introduced exotic pests, diseases, invasive plants, along with climate change and forest fragmentation, the sustainability of forest ecosystems are being threatened, Carlson said in a statement.

He and his colleagues will develop new genomic resources for important species that represent the major taxonomic groups of eastern hardwood trees including yellow poplar, sweetgum, honey locust, northern red oak, black walnut, sugar maple, blackgum, and green ash.

The species were chosen to provide the broadest coverage of taxonomic groups that include hardwood trees, improving the ability of scientists to identify traits and versions of genes that are shared among hardwood trees, rather than those that may be specific to particular types of trees, Carlson said.

The researchers will also create a new gene sequence database for six of the species, and develop "genetic linkage maps" for five of the species.

"We also will develop genetic tools, such as genes and DNA markers, for rapidly assessing genetic variation and diversity among hardwood trees for traits related to resistance and/or susceptibility to environmental stresses, such as drought, heat, pathogens, and insects," Carlson said.

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