Title

CHARACTERIZING THE GENOMIC AND GENETIC VARIATION OF PROBLEMATIC WEED SPECIES IN NORTHERN NEW ENGLAND AS AN ASSESSMENT OF EVOLUTIONARY POTENTIAL

Date of Award

Fall 2016

Project Type

Thesis

Program or Major

Genetics

Degree Name

Master of Science

First Advisor

Thomas Davis

Second Advisor

Richard Smith

Third Advisor

Matthew MacManes

Abstract

Weeds are a major problem on organic farms, where ecological weed management without the use of synthetic chemicals is challenging and strategically different from conventional farming practices. Impacts of invasive species and weeds are also expected to rise in response to human and environmental selection pressures. In an effort to gain a better understanding of a weed species’ capacity to rapidly adapt to these pressures, its current biodiversity must first be understood. Eight problematic weed species on organic farms in Northern New England (NNE) were selected as potential candidates for genetic and/or genomic analysis. Genetically, little is known about the weeds that inhabit NNE, their relative capacities for evolutionary change, or their responses to environmental change. Understanding the existing genetic diversity of the species of interest will allow for the effective identification of newly evolved forms and/or for tracking gene flow and the invasion of species into new regions. The objectives of this research are to: 1) Determine nuclear genome content for weeds of interest in NNE; 2) Generate next generation sequencing data for molecular marker development in the genus Amaranthus; 3) Identify microsatellite markers from genomic sequencing data for future genetic variation studies in Amaranthus. Results from this research will help move the field of ecological weed management forward by gaining a better understanding of the genetic structure and potential for evolutionary success of current weed populations in NNE.

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