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David L. Des Marais

Harvard University
1300 Centre St
Roslindale, MA 02131


Taxa Studied: Plants
Techniques Employed: Quantitative PCR (qPCR), Microarrays, Sanger Sequencing, Solexa (Illumina) Sequencing, Bioinformatics/Sequence Analysis, QTL Mapping, Transgenesis
Research Description: Recent conceptual and technical developments in genetics and genomics has placed the mapping of genotype to phenotype as a central goal of biology. Work in the Des Marais lab makes use of these new developments to understand how genetic variation across populations, species, and lineages drives the origin and maintenance of biological diversity. Through careful dissection of the genetic basis of phenotypic differences within and between species, we focus on fundamental evolutionary questions such as: Does history constrain or facilitate future evolution? How does phenotypic plasticity evolve and how does genotype interact with the environment to shape organismal function and evolutionary fitness? Does parallel phenotypic evolution result from common, or unique genetic pathways? How do genes interact with other genes during development and evolution? Most work in our group focuses on the molecular aspects of plant responses to abiotic stress. We dissect the molecular basis of physiological and developmental responses to soil water drying and elevated temperature. We work primarily on an emerging model grass species, Brachypodium distachyon, and other members of the genus Brachypodium. Principal tools used in our group are large-scale phenotyping experiments under tightly controlled environmental conditions, physiological assays, RNASequencing to measure genome-wide expression response, transgenic tests of molecular function, and population genetic analysis of the effects of natural selection.
Lab Web Page: http://arboretum.harvard.edu/people/david-des-marais/
Willing to Host Undergraduates: YES
Actively Seeking Undergraduates: YES
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