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Image of the lab members, posing facing the camera
The lab, Spring 2024

Dr. Jill Anderson

Associate Professor 
Department of Genetics and Odum School of Ecology
jta24 (at) uga (dot) edu




I am an evolutionary ecologist broadly interested in natural plant populations. I grew up in Chicago, where I gained an appreciation for tallgrass prairies as a child through restoration workdays. After I finished my undergraduate degree at Brown University, I spent three years working as a tropical field biologist in Yasuni National Park (Ecuador), Pando (Bolivia) and Lomas de Barbudal Reserve (Costa Rica). I started grad school at Cornell determined to study seed dispersal by frugivorous fish in tropical South America. Along the way, I developed a strong interest in local adaptation in plant populations. When I finished my Ph.D. in the labs of Monica Geber and Peter Marks, I began a postdoc with Tom Mitchell-Olds at Duke.  


Dr. Lillie Penningtonimage of Dr. Pennington smiling and standing in front of a wall of flowering plants

Department of Genetics 
lillie.pennington (at) uga (dot) edu

Broadly, I am interested in how adaptive responses vary across a species range. Chamaecrista fasciculata, the partridge pea, is the focus of my post-doctoral research. I am conducting a range-wide survey of the nitrogen-fixing bacteria that colonize the nodules the plant forms on its roots. I am also investigating the extent of local adaptation to local bacterial communities, as well as the impact of climate change on this symbiosis. I earned my degree in the Sexton Lab at UC Merced studying drought effects on natural populations  across the range of the cutleaf monkeyflower, Erythranthe laciniata.


Inam, just standingInam Jameel

PhD. Candidate
Department of Genetics
inam (at) uga (dot) edu
C.V.           OrcID          Twitter

Broadly, I'm interested in teasing apart the interactions of environment and genetic variation to produce phenotypes. I am focusing on plant responses to herbivory and drought by using multiple populations of Boechera stricta in the greenhouse and the field. My goal is to understand how populations have used phenotypic plasticity to adapt to their particular surroundings and to investigate the genetic basis of plasticity. Additionally, I am interested in discerning the adaptive potential of transgenerational plasticity. All together, I wish to understand if plasticity can enable populations to persist when exposed to novel conditions associated with climate change, such as competition from other species, predators, or an increased range of temperatures. 

Previously, I was a technician with Chris Oakley (Purdue) and Doug Schemske (MSU) fine mapping freezing tolerance in natural populations of Arabidopsis thaliana and investigated the effect of heterospecific pollen on germination with Tia-Lynn Ashman (UPitt) and Gerardo Arceo-Gómez.  


Derek DenneyPhoto of Derek Denney

PhD. Candidate
Department of Plant Biology
derek.denney (at) uga (dot) edu
C.V.           OrcID          



Overall, I am interested in how changing environments alter plant populations over space and time. For my research, I aim to identify the underlying genetic basis of local adaptation and local maladaptation. Additionally, I am exploring the effects of genetic trade-offs on selection under contemporary climate change. Prior to joining the Anderson lab, I received my MS in Plant Biology at Washington State University. I also worked as a research technician at Myriad Genetics in Salt Lake City after completing my undergraduate degree at the University of Utah. 


Mia Rochford''

PhD. Candidate, Co-advised with Dr. Jennifer Cruse-Sanders
Department of Plant Biology
mia.rochford (at) uga (dot) edu




I am a Ph.D. student in the plant biology department under the advisorship of both Dr. Anderson and Dr. Jenny Cruse-Sanders, director of the State Botanical Garden of Georgia. My research interests include plant ecology, conservation, and environmental change. I am investigating the causes and consequences of rarity in plant populations. My project will also address the effects of habitat fragmentation on plant population dynamics under current climate change conditions. 


Photo of Sam daySamantha Day

PhD. Candidate
Department of Genetics
samantha.day25 (at) uga (dot) edu



My research focuses on understanding the balance of selective pressures that influence the evolution of flower size and how this balance will shift under climate change conditions. Using Iris missouriensis as a model species in a series of field experiments, I aim to dissect both the agents and targets of selection on flower size.


Kelly (K.B) McCrumPhoto of Kelly

PhD. Candidate, Co-advised with Dr. Anny Chung
Department of Plant Biology
kelly.mccrum (at) uga (dot) edu



My research looks at the interactions of plants and soil microbes under climate change. Broadly speaking, I want to ask: when climate change forces plants to shift their distribution into new areas, how do abiotic factors and the biotic interactions of novel microbial communities combine to affect plant fitness? I’m using a native southeastern wildflower, Elephantopus tomentosus, to investigate these interactions. I hope that this type of research can inform future conservation efforts, given that many plants have shifted their ranges poleward and upward in elevation due to climate change. Previously, I was a technician with Theodora Ross (University of Texas Southwestern) investigating the effect of BRCA1 mutations on the hematopoietic system in mice.


Elizabeth (Liz) Thomas Picture of Liz thomas, in a wet land, posing next to a plant

PhD. Student
Department of Plant Biology
eathomas (at) uga (dot) edu





Broadly, my research interests lie at the intersection of plant population genetics, ecology, and biogeography, and utilizing eco-evolutionary approaches for applied plant conservation research. I’m particularly interested in how coadapted gene complexes, non-additive genetic effects, and selective agents differ across a species’ range, and how this can inform effective germplasm collection and maintenance strategies for conservation and restoration actions. I’m working with Chamaecrista fasciculata (patridge pea) to explore these phenomena.




Ephie Magige

PhD. Student
ephiemagige (at) uga (dot) edu