About Me

Welcome to my professional blog.

I’m Kristen, PhD Candidate in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology at Oregon State University.

I began my graduate program in Fall 2014 after my undergraduate education at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas and an internship at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami, Florida. I’m co-advised by Dr. Andy Jones in Botany and Plant Pathology and Dr. Richard Cronn at the United States Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station.

Finch ‘n’ SNPs

My research focuses on change in allele frequencies over time that potentially lead to population diversification (population genetics), and the environmental factors that may contribute to population differentiation. Studying the Neotropical tree, Cedrela odorata (Cedro; Spanish Cedar; Meliaceae), I use genomics and bioinformatics to assess variation within and among regional groups of Cedrela odorata and correlate genetic variation with geography, temperature, and precipitation. The practical application of my dissertation research will be two SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) arrays: one for the identification of the geographic origin of Cedrela odorata specimens and one for the taxonomic identification of Cedrela timbers. A SNP array for timber screening of Cedrela spp. is desirable because three Cedrela species are listed on CITES Appendix III, which prohibits harvest and trade in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, and Peru.  I am passionate about forest conservation, and I hope that my current work may provide useful information regarding the enforcement timber trade regulations.

All of the samples for my dissertation research came from the Missouri Botanical Garden Herbarium. I am grateful to the 200+ botanists who traveled the world to collect these samples. I hope my work does their labor justice. My dissertation research reflects the utility of natural history collections and environmental records. The cover photo of this blog is a shot of the Cedrela section of the Missouri Botanical Garden Herbarium.

Check out the manuscript from Chapter 1 of my dissertation. GO TO PAPER.

All the data is available via the NCBI Sequence Read Archive and the Oregon State Scholars Archive. GO TO DATASET.

Collecting DNA samples from herbarium specimens at the Missouri Botanical Garden Herbarium in 2018.

Wood Chemistry

I addition to using genomics to study variation in trees, I also completed a project investigating regional differences in wood chemistry of western Oregon Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii (Douglas-fir). For this project, I used Direct Analysis in Real Time (Time of Flight) Mass Spectrometry (DART-TOFMS) to obtain and analyze full chemical profiles of wood cores from adult Douglas-fir trees. We identified minute differences in wood chemistry between trees grown in the Pacific Coast Range and the Cascade Range of Oregon. These differences allowed us to identify the origin of each wood core with ~75% accuracy on average. More testing is required, but DART-TOFMS may be useful for provenance identification for unknown wood specimens. GO TO PAPER.

See all publications.

This research has been the focus of a few news articles:

“DART-TOFMS: finding the chemistry in wood.” Taylor Robb-McCord

“Forestry Forensics 101” Matt McConnell

“Forensic chemical analysis of wood could stop illegal logging” Botanical Society of America

Coring a Douglas-fir in 2015.

Douglas-fir wood core and needles.

Field work near Oakridge, OR 2015.

DJ Tequilamockingnerd

In addition to doing research at Oregon State, I am a host of a campus radio (KBVR Corvallis 88.7FM) talk show called Inspiration Dissemination. Each week we feature the research and personal stories of a graduate student at Oregon State. I love getting to know graduate students through the show and spreading the message about research at Oregon State. While playing music before each show I host, I’m known as DJ Tequilamockingnerd,–a play on my last name which is shared by the family from To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee, one of my favorite books. Also, I like tequila in moderation and I’m a proud nerd.

Visit my Inspiration Dissemination page to learn more.

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