The University of Texas at Austin: Postdoctoral Fellow, 2010-2012
Duke University: PhD, 2004-2010
The University of California, Berkeley: BS, 1997-2001
The genetics of adaptation and speciation
Adaptation is the most fundamental way that the environment can mold the diverse phenotypes of organisms. Adaptations can also lead to the formation of reproductive isolating barriers, which are the building blocks of new species. I am very interested in understanding the genetic underpinnings of reproductive isolation at various stages in the speciation process.
Understanding adaptation is also crucial to predicting how organisms will respond to future global change and will help inform management decisions as well as guide future agricultural breeding.
Landscape evolutionary genomics
One of the core goals of my research program is to understand how the natural landscape molds the genomes of organisms through adaptation. To that end, I am using a combination of genetic mapping and genome sequencing approaches to identify genes involved with adaptation to the heterogeneity of the natural landscape. During my dissertation, I focused on how adaptive alleles in Mimulus guttatus are spread across the landscape and what phenotypic effects they have in different environments across western North America. Currently, I am developing Panicum grasses as a model system to understand adaptation along a longitudinal soil moisture cline across Southwestern United States and a latitudinal temperature cline across the Great Plains.
The role of the genomic structure in phenotypic evolution
Whether or not a gene will be involved in adaptation and phenotypic evolution is dependent on the position of that gene in the genome. Differential rates of recombination and selection across the genome can have a large impact on patterns of standing genetic variation, which is raw source of evolution. I am currently using multi-genome data sets in Arabidopsis thaliana to understand how genome structure impacts phenotypic evolution.
Using evolutionary biology to improve bioenergy crops
Civilization is built on a foundation of domesticated grasses. Without those grasses (corn, wheat, rice, oats, barley, sorghum) there would be no ballet and human beings would never of landed on the moon. Plant breeders have quietly worked in the shadows to increase the yield of crops and in turn maintain our modern world.
Now, there may actually be potential to domesticate a new set of grass species to use to help combat the growing energy problem. My research is focused understanding the factors involved in local adaptation in the bioenergy crop switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). Loci involved in local adaptation are likely to be of high value to crop breeders interested in improving drought, heat, cold, herbivore, and disease tolerance.
Lowry D. B., R. Hopkins. (2012) “Speciation and Natural Selection.” Invited book chapter in The Princeton Guide to Evolution, edited by Jonathan Losos. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. In press
Lowry, D. B., C. T. Purmal, E. Meyer, T. E. Juenger. (2012) Microsatellite markers for the native Texas perennial grass, Panicum hallii (Poaceae). American Journal of Botany Primer Notes & Protocols. 99: e114-e116
Lowry, D. B., C. S. Sheng, Z. Zhu, T. E. Juenger, B. Lahner, D. E. Salt, J. H. Willis. (2012) Mapping of ionomic traits in Mimulus guttatus reveals Mo and Cd QTLs that colocalize with MOT1 homologues. PLoS One 7: e30730.
Lowry, D.B., J. H. Willis. (2010) A widespread chromosomal inversion polymorphism contributes to a major life-history transition, local adaptation, and reproductive isolation. PLoS Biology 8: e1000500
Hall M. C., D. B. Lowry, J. H. Willis. (2010). Hall M. C., D. B. Lowry, J. H. Willis. (2010) Is local adaptation in Mimulus guttatus caused by trade-offs at individual loci? Molecular Ecology. 19: 2739-2753
Lowry, D. B., M. C. Hall, D. E. Salt, J. H. Willis. (2009). Genetic and physiological basis of adaptive salt tolerance divergence between coastal and inland Mimulus guttatus. New Phytologist 183: 776-788
Lowry, D. B., J. L. Modliszewski, K. M. Wright, C. A. Wu, J. H. Willis. (2008). The strength and genetic basis of reproductive isolating barriers in flowering plants. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 363: 3009-3021
Wu, C. A., D. B. Lowry, A. M. Cooley, K. M. Wright, Y. W. Lee, and J. H. Willis. (2008). Mimulus is an emerging model system for the integration of ecological and genomic studies. Heredity 100: 220-230.
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