Section of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is a pioneer of purpose-driven science and Cornell University's second largest college. We work across disciplines to tackle the challenges of our time through world-renowned research, education and outreach. The questions we probe and the answers we seek focus on three overlapping concerns: natural and human systems; food, energy and environmental resources; and social, physical and economic well-being.
The Bergstrom lab in the Section of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology at Cornell University is seeking a Postdoctoral Associate who will conduct research on the genetics of pathogen resistance in switchgrass. Switchgrass is an important target species for domestic production of cellulosic biofuels. The principal aim of most switchgrass breeding programs is to develop high-yielding cultivars. However, as feedstock plantings expand, so will pathogen pressure. Unless controlled, fungal pathogens with explosive disease potential will likely drive yield declines and economic losses. Pathogen resistance can be developed through breeding programs that exploit natural genetic variation in disease resistance. Much of the functional genetic variation in switchgrass is distributed clinally with latitude as well as between lowland and upland ecotypes. In general, southern lowland cultivars of switchgrass have many advantages over northern upland cultivars because they are higher yielding, require fewer nitrogen inputs, and are more resistant to pathogens. In addition, southern lowland cultivars are generally more tolerant to heat, drought, and flooding than northern upland cultivars. However, southern lowland cultivars are more susceptible to winter kill than northern upland cultivars.
This DOE funded research project is being conducted in collaboration with David Lowry of Michigan State University. The research utilizes new and powerful genetic mapping populations (QTL and GWAS) to identify genomic regions responsible for divergence in disease resistance between northern upland and southern lowland switchgrass ecotypes. These mapping populations have been planted at an unprecedented geographical scale, spanning twelve common garden field sites from central Mexico to the Northern United States. Therefore, this experiment is ideal for identification of regionally effective disease resistance loci (at one sites) as well as globally effective loci (across multiple sites). In addition, we plan to survey populations for survival to identify loci involved in overwinter survival. Results from the field will be validated through laboratory experiments on fungal pathogen resistance and freezing tolerance. Overall, these studies will provide an improved understanding of the process local adaptation and identify loci that can be utilized in switchgrass breeding programs.
The successful postdoc candidate will be responsible for leading research on the population genetics of switchgrass rusts and other pathogens. This research will include analyses of genomic data collected from field sites across North America. (Approximately 2 weeks of travel per year – within New York State). Our research team has also recently discovered multiple potential disease resistance loci. The postdoc in this position would lead greenhouse experiments to confirm that these loci are responsible for divergence in pathogen resistance between ecotypes of switchgrass. This is a full-time, one year appointment with possible extension dependent on successful performance and continued funding.
Anticipated Division of Time:
60% Conduct of experiments in laboratory, greenhouse, growth chambers, and dispersed field locations
30% Analyses of genomic data
10% Writing of reports, manuscripts for publication, and contributions to grant proposals
The postdoc may on occasion supervise undergraduate research assistants working on this project
PhD in a field related to Genetics, Genomics, Bioinformatics, Evolution, Plant Biology, and/or Plant Pathology at the time of hire. Must have and maintain a valid and unrestricted NYS drivers license and be able to meet the travel requirements of the position.
Expertise in plant pathology and inoculations with pathogens. General interest plant microbes and plant biology. Experience working in the field and laboratory with plants. Experience with analyzing genomic data and/or population genetic data.
If you have questions regarding this position please contact Professor & Department Chair, Gary Bergstrom at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Internal Number: JOB_POSTING-3-21985
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