Since September, Juliana has been examining the evolution of leaf flavonoids and other phenolics across diverse wild sunflowers (genus Helianthus) from across North America. Her results indicate large variation in secondary chemistry across wild sunflowers, and will improve our understanding of how allocation to defensive chemistry varies in response to plant adaptation to local soil and climate conditions.
In the lab, Tessa has been examining the carotenoid content of nearly a thousand samples of frozen sunflower petals, in an attempt to understand the genetic basis of flower color in cultivated sunflower. By assessing pigment concentration across an association mapping panel of several hundred sequenced sunflower lines, Tessa will begin the new year by mapping variation in petal carotenoid content to the sunflower genome, in order to describe the genetic architecture of this trait and begin the hunt for the candidate genes that determine whether sunflower petals are faint yellow, bright orange, or somewhere in between.
You can read more about Dr. Mason’s research and keep up to date on developments here.