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Roe receives National Science Foundation research opportunity award

University of Maine at Presque Isle Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Judith Roe has been awarded a $23,356 Research Opportunity Award from the National Science Foundation as part of a larger project being conducted at the University of California at Davis. Through her sub-award, Dr. Roe will work under the direction of Dr. Johanna Schmitt, UC Davis professor of Evolution and Ecology and the NSF award’s principal investigator.

Dr. Roe will collaborate with Dr. Schmitt and several other researchers in California on a project focused on modeling the effects of variation on the evolution of natural populations of the plant Arabidopsis thaliana, a genetic model system and relative of broccoli and cabbage. Although found much further north in Europe, there is only one reported identification of Arabidopsis in Maine. Studies will be performed at UMPI to investigate the response of Arabidopsis to the present and future climates of northern Maine and to identify genetic factors that might contribute to its adaptation to climate. Part of the funding will be used to involve UMPI Biology students in the research.

“The award will give us the chance to participate in a collaborative project with a distinguished group of scientists and provide our students meaningful involvement in contemporary scientific research,” Dr. Roe said.

Dr. Roe has extensive experience in Arabidopsis thaliana flowering time research and participated in the European field experiment run by Dr. Schmitt and Dr. Steven Welch, from Kansas State University in 2006-2007. As part of the experiment, she co-managed the field site in Norwich, England. In addition, she spent time during the summers of 2012 and 2013 visiting Dr. Schmitt’s laboratory at Brown University to become familiar with the current laboratory projects on flowering time in Arabidopsis, consulting with the scientists there, and helping with a planting.

Researchers on the project believe that the UMPI campus provides a unique opportunity for studying the behavior of Arabidopsis on the edge of its range in North America. The UMPI campus also provides an ideal location for this research as Dr. Roe has set up a research laboratory used to train undergraduate students in the field of “the genetic basis of adaptation to the environment”. Several students have participated in both field and laboratory research with Dr. Roe in the past year and a half.

Funds will support Dr. Roe’s travels to the Schmitt laboratories, the conducting of field and chamber experiments with Arabidopsis in northern Maine, and a stipend for a summer student researcher.

“The results we obtain should help scientists better understand the genetic basis of how plants respond to the environment, allowing them to better predict future plant behavior in a changing climate,” Dr. Roe said.