Dr. Katherine Waselkov, Assistant Professor
I am a plant systematist and population geneticist, with broad training in evolution, ecology, and population biology. During graduate school, my research interests crystallized around the idea that very common plants are both intriguing theoretically and understudied by evolutionary biologists. In particular, I developed a fondness for the genus Amaranthus (pigweeds) that continues to the present day. The tractability of such weedy systems has been an additional benefit for involving undergraduate students in research.
My project is on an important agricultural weed, Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri). I am investigating the genetic diversity and connectivity of Central California Palmer populations to Southwest and Eastern/Midwestern populations to trace the origin of California populations, as well as identify possible genes linked to adaptation to California’s environment and/or invasion/range expansion. I’m using bioinformatic techniques to compare neutral markers and adaptive herbicide resistance genes between these populations, and to analyze SNP data of California populations for any overlap and/or outliers possibly linked to adaptation. After my Master’s, I plan to pursue an M.S. in Genetic Counseling or a DVM to pursue a career in the medical field, as a genetic counselor or research veterinarian!
I am working on a M.S. Biology project on waterhemp (Amaranthus tuberculatus), an important Midwestern agricultural weed that has recently begun to show up in the Central Valley. I will be using RADSeq genomics to investigate the California invasion of this species. Post-graduation, my career goals are to obtain a job in the broad field of genetics and bioinformatics, possibly in an agricultural industry position.
My master’s project is a revision of the phylogeny of the genus Helianthella, the little sunflower. I’m using genetic sequencing and morphological comparisons to assess the relations within the genus, which has been mostly ignored since the 1950s. I have also been working in the Fresno State Herbarium since my undergrad, first digitizing herbarium specimens, but more recently aiding in the transfer of entries and images to the new database and intake of new physical specimens. I received my B.S. in Biology from Fresno State in Spring 2019, and am now pursuing my M.S. in Biology.
I am studying the ecological interactions between plants and fungi in forest ecosystems using mycoheterotrophic (MH) plants as a model system. MH plants are plants that have evolved to completely lose the ability to photosynthesize. Instead, their roots are colonized by particular species of fungi that create a network of connections to other plant roots throughout the soil. Sugars produced by nearby photosynthetic plants travel through roots into the fungal network, and these sugars are then given to MH plants by their fungal symbiotic partners. My project specifically focuses on whether MH plants are beneficial or detrimental to the species involved in forest fungal networks. After finishing my Master’s, I plan to pursue a Ph.D. and continue studying ecological interactions between plants and fungi.
I am testing populations of Palmer amaranth from the native range (southwestern U.S.) and the invaded Central California range for resistance to different chemical classes of herbicides, include glyphosate (RoundUp), acetolactate synthase (ALS) inhibitors, protoporphyrinogen oxidase (PPO) inhibitors, and glufosinate. My approach combines greenhouse assays with genetic PCR and qPCR assays and sequencing. I’m pursuing an M.S. in Biology, expected Fall 2020.
I, along with my partner Savneesh Athwal, am currently working on a project regarding the native California species Phlox speciosa. I am testing out microsatellite markers to better understand the genetics and taxonomy of this species. The purpose of this project is to analyze the different populations across a geographic range of Phlox speciosa and determine whether there are subspecies and genetic differences. I am also imaging Fresno State Herbarium specimens and learning how to process them to upload to the online database. After earning my B.S. in Biology from Fresno State, my goal is to go to medical school to pursue a career in medicine.
I am currently working alongside Pawanpreet Gill on our project regarding Phlox speciosa. I am working on PCR and gel electrophoresis for 3 different microsatellite markers which will help interpret the genetic differences in the populations of Phlox. I am also working on analyzing data we have completed and sent to the genomics company Laragen. Once I have received my B.S. in Biology with a minor in Chemistry, I plan on applying to medical school to eventually return to the Central Valley as a physician!