Current projects include a broad range of research from sequencing the chestnut genome to field trials of biomass energy tree crops. These projects are externally funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Agriculture, The Forest Health Initiative, the US Forest Service and the Northeast Sun Grant Initiative.

The Chestnut Genome. This project was initiated in 2010.  In January 2014, we released the first draft of Chinese chestnut genome to the public at the Hardwood Genomics project website (https://hardwoodgenomics.org/Genome-assembly/1962958) complete with predicted gene and protein sequences and a browser for scanning the genome scaffolds.  The project culminated with publication in 2020 (https://doi.org/10.1007/s11295-020-01454-y) of the first reference genome for a chestnut tree, the Chinese chestnut cultivar 'Vanuxem', including chromosome-scale sequences built by anchoring large scaffold sequences to the Chinese chestnut genetic linkage map.  The most recent assemblies, genes, and browsers are publicly available at the hardwoods website https://hardwoodgenomics.org/Genome-assembly/3032843?tripal_pane=group_summary_tripalpane. 

This project was primarily funded by the Forest Health Initiative award #137RFP#2008-011 (for more information on the sponsor visit the Forest Health Initiative website).  Support was also provided by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant # 2016-67013-24581 and the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Federal Appropriations under Project PEN04532 (Accession number 1000326). 

Genetic and genomic resources for restoration and sustainability of green ash and northern red oak. This grant provides 2 years of funding for us to develop a genetics and genomics platform for future studies into the genetic basis and deployment of resistance to insects, disease, and environmental stress in green ash and northern red oak. The major deliverables will be complete reference genomes for Quercus rubra and Fraxinus pennsylvanicus, the mapping of phenology and growth traits, and genome-wide SNP diversity estimates.

This project is funded by USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture award #1020603, McIntire-Stennis AES project number 4717, October 1, 2019 - September 30, 2021.

Breeding resilient, disease-resistant switchgrass cultivars for marginal lands.

The goal of this project is to expand the range of switchgrass cultivation in the Northeast by accelerating switchgrass cultivar development.  The project leverages and expands upon cultivars, populations, data, and trials started in the former NEWBio project coupled with generation of new genomics information leading to discovery of candidate genes for anthracnose resistance, Bipolaris resistance and yield, and the effects of Genotype-by-Environment interactions of the soil microbiome with climate, yield characters, and disease susceptibility. This research includes the Carlson, Lasky, Hall, and Bell groups at Penn State, the Bonos group at Rutgers, and the Viands group at Cornell.  Funding is from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture award #2019-67009-29006, for 3 years (December 1, 2018 - November 30, 2021).

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  • Professor of Molecular Genetics