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Forest genetics research takes lime light in North America


Rebecca Jones (right) with former Australian National University Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr Rose Andrew, who now works on the evolution of species differences in sunflower at the Rieseberg Laboratory, UBC.


Steve Strauss with genetically modified eucalypts growing in tissue culture at Oregon State University.

Forest Science Building

UBC Forest Sciences building. The building is also a showcase for the use of wood products in non-residential construction, featuring massive Parallam tree columns in the atrium and the extensive use of wood for interior finishing.

­Rebecca Jones
PhD student
School of Plant Science
University of Tasmania

In August I attended the IUFRO-CTIA conference entitled "Adaptation, Breeding and Conservation in the Era of Forest Tree Genomics and Environmental Change" in Quebec City, Canada.  It was a joint conference of IUFRO Working Groups 2.04.01 (Population, ecological and conservation genetics) and 2.04.10 (Genomics), along with the Canadian Tree Improvement Association (CTIA) and also included Arborea-Treenomix (   and and CONFORGEN satellite workshops.

I gave two oral presentations based on my PhD research:
Molecular evolution in complex forest tree gene pools: the case of Eucalyptus globulus in southeastern Australia” and
Expression of flowering locus T (FT) and leafy (ELF1) homologues are associated with annual flower bud initiation in Eucalyptus globulus”.

Quebec City is celebrating its 400th anniversary in 2008, so the city was alive with festivals and events during my stay.  Quebec City is the only fortified city in North America, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and proudly maintains a wonderful French culture.  Apart from the fabulous conference dinner held at the Quebec Parliament, highlights of the conference for me included the keynote addresses by Antoine Kremer (INRA, France) who spoke about European forest tree phylogeography and population genomics, Antje Rohde (Belgium) who gave an overview of the genomics of bud set and growth cessation in poplar, and Sally Aitken (UBC, Canada) who spoke on forest tree gene pool conservation and climate change.  During the concurrent sessions, there were presentations on gene expression, genetic pollution, conservation genetics and phylogeography. I also had the opportunity to meet with key researchers in my field, such as Matias Kirst (UFlorida, USA) who is involved with eucalypt genomics and breeding.  Keeping up with the latest research in these areas will help me to pull together my eucalypt population genetics data and flowering gene expression studies as I embark on the writing stage of my PhD.

After the conference I visited Sally Aitken and Kermit Ritland (Department of Forest Science) and Loren Rieseberg (Department of Botany) at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Vancouver.  Our gene pool management studies at UTAS have focused on variation in neutral markers such as microsatellites, however we are increasingly incorporating variation in ecological and adaptive traits.  Maintaining links with world leading research groups, such as at UBC, will assist us to move in this direction.

I  travelled south from Vancouver to visit Dr Steven Strauss at the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society, Oregon State University, in Corvallis, Oregon (USA).  Dr Strauss is working on the genomics of flowering in poplar, and is also interested in the genomics of flowering in eucalypts.  He showed me around his field trials of GM trees, a unique and interesting experience as such techniques are unlikely to be used in eucalypts in Australia.

Beck contributes to subprojects 4.2.6 (Management of the risk of gene flow from eucalypt plantations) and 4.2.7 (Management of genetic resources).

Link to lab meeting presentation