Biotechnology | Ecology and Evolutionary Biology | Plant Sciences
Our research examines plant gene flow and the impacts from environmental release of genetically-modified plants. Plant gene flow is a natural process that occurs when pollen from one plant lands on the flower of another plant and produces a hybrid offspring. Gene flow can produce hybrid offspring with new traits that could change the ability of the plant to survive and spread. If hybrid offspring have some advantage in the environment, they could become invasive and/or affect other components of our ecosystems. In the near future, the federal government may approve the use of a genetically engineered herbicide-resistant (HR) Agrostis stolonifera. A. stolonifera (creeping bentgrass) is a common non-native grass that inhabits a myriad of environments. It is also known to hybridize with four non-native bentgrass relatives in Connecticut. If the HR A. stolonifera is used, the gene is likely to escape into feral and cultivated bentgrass populations. Studies are needed to quantify the potential impact the HR trait could have on the environment. This study uses greenhouse experiments to characterize stress tolerance in four common, non-native, feral Agrostis species. The differences in stress tolerance that have been observed act as a proxy for adaptability and weediness. Changes in adaptability and weediness may become important factors in future gene flow and escape of the transgene.
Auer, Carol and Ahrens, Collin, "Drought and Salinity Tolerance in Common Agrostis Species." (2008). Plant Science Presentations and Proceedings. 7.