EVANGELINE S BALLERINI, PHD

Plant Evolutionary Genetics and Developmental Biology

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The focal point of my research is aimed at comprehending the origin of species and the phenotypic diversity that they encompass. My interests lie at the intersection of evolutionary biology, ecology, and developmental biology.

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How has species diversity evolved? What is the genetic basis of adaptive traits?  What is the genetic basis of reproductive isolation? Through what developmental processes does genetic variation act to generate phenotypic variation?  Does the evolution of convergent phenotypes occur through modifications in the same genes?

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The plant genus Aquilegia (common name columbines) is particularly well suited to address these questions.  The genus consists of 70 species that have evolved in the past 3-4 million years. This recent and rapid burst in diversification, attributed to the evolution of floral nectar spurs, has one major consequence: reproductive isolation is not complete. This feature is important as fertile hybrids can be generated allowing for the genetic dissection of phenotypic traits and the early evolving traits influencing reproductive isolation have not been masked by secondary factors.

News

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June 2018

Congratulations to new graduate (with honors) Alex Primo! I don’t know how “I’m” ever going to get lab work done again. 

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May 2018

Undergrads Alex Primo and Jasen Liu representin’ at the URCA colloquium. Good work guys! I’m a lucky advisor.

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May 2018

A great trip back to my old Boston stomping grounds to work with Molly on phenotyping the A. canadensis x A. brevistyla F2s

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February 2018

The Aquilegia genomes paper is finally available on bioRxiv: https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2018/02/12/264101 

Hopefully this opens the floodgates for some Aquilegia papers!

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December 2017

Congratulations to UCSB undergraduates Alex Primo and Jasen Liu for getting funding for our projects on POP functional analyses and color variation in A. formosa and A. pubescens through the URCA program!!

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August, 2017

Presented results about POPOVICH at the second biennial Pan-Am Evo Devo conference at the University of Calgary, Canada. Followed up the conference with a successful field trip collecting A. brevistyla in the Canadian Rockies with Molly Edwards (Kramer Lab, Harvard University)!

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Molly points out a fruit    Anji naps among the columbines

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June, 2017

Congratulations to recent Hodges lab undergraduates Justin Pretorius and Tim Ngo! Both graduated with honors in the major.

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Tim, Anji, & Justin = NERDS!                  Tim, Anji, Zac, Tyler, Justin, & Scott

                                        Hodges Lab (cameo by Cathi’s finger)

May, 2017

Justin Pretorius and Tim Ngo presented their hard earned data at the UCSB Undergraduate Research Colloquium.

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December, 2016

Zac and I finally sent got our AmpSeq libraries ready for sequencing. So much blood, sweat, and tears in one little tube!

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August, 2016

A successful couple of trips to the field to collect populations of A. formosa and A. pubescens for AmpSeq with Soda, the trusty field assistant

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April, 2016

Collected an A. formosa sepal development series from coastal populations. Not a bad field site.

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August, 2015

Presented results from comparative genomics analyses in a talk titled “Identifying the genetic basis of a key innovation: How columbines got (& lost) their spurs”  at the Pan Am Evo Devo conference at the Clark Kerr Campus (my freshman dorm!), UC Berkeley

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July, 2015

Began analysis on comparative transcriptomics of developing petals of 4 different columbine species (80 data points), including the one spurless variety A. ecalcarata

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June, 2015

Congratulations to recent graduate Mena Moussa, recipient of the CH Muller award!

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Zac, Mena, Anji, & Scott                    Hodges Lab selfies

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March, 2015

After a few months in limbo, we found out that we got full funding from NSF to continue my research on the genetic basis of spur loss in A. ecalcarata!

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July, 2014

Former undergraduate mentee Devon Birdseye and I attended the American Society of Plant Biologists annual meeting in Portland, OR.  Devon presented our research in a poster titled “Identification of the genetic basis of compound leaf variation in columbines (Aquilegia)” and I presented a poster on our research “Identifying the genetic basis of morphological variation in columbine (Aquilegia) flowers”

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July, 2014

Preliminary QTL analyses have mapped spur loss in A. ecalcarata to a 1 cM region!

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June, 2014

Congratulations to recent Hodges Lab graduates Devon Birdseye, Zac Cabin, Jonathan Pham, and Jonathan Wechter!  Devon was the co-recipient of the CH Muller Award for her plant biology research and both Devon and Jonathan Wechter graduated with honors in the major.

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Scott, Devon, & Jonathan              Devon, Jonathan, & Anji

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October, 2013

A. ecalcarata X A. sibirica F2s are starting to flower! Let the phenotyping begin!

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September, 2013

UCSB Art in Science Competition - My image demonstrating phenotypic variation in petals of Aquilegia formosa X A. pubescens hybrids was the winning entry in the UCSB Art in Science Competition.  The image will be on display in the UCSB library through December 31, 2013

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August, 2013

Wrapped up a successful field season collecting tissue and phenotypic data from several A. formosa X A. pubescens hybrid zones in the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains with help from UCSB undergraduate Daniel Lehnert, colleague Amity Wilczek and undergraduate Michael Byars from Deep Springs College. The ankle held up well!

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June, 2013

Presented our latest research on “Identifying the genetic basis of traits contributing to reproductive isolation between Aquilegia formosa and A. pubescens using high-throughput genomic sequencing” at the Evolution meeting in Snowbird, UT

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February, 2013

Ankle ligaments reconstructed by Dr. Roger Mann in preparation for the summer field season

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December, 2012

Awarded the Harvey L. Karp Discovery Award ($48,000) to study the genetic basis of spur loss in A. ecalcarata

Assistant Research Scientist

2015-present

Kirschstein NRSA Postdoctoral Fellow

2012-2015

PI Scott Hodges

University of California Santa Barbara; Ecology, Evolution, & Marine Biology Department

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Postdoctoral Research Associate

2010-2012

PI Mike Arnold

University of Georgia; Genetics Department

Co-PI Noland Martin

Texas State University, San Marcos; Department of Biology

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PhD

2003-2010

PI Elena M. Kramer

Harvard University; Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Department

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BA

1997-2001

UC Berkeley, Integrative Biology Department