Phil Westra, PhD: Principal Investigator
- Biology, ecology, and control of jointed goatgrass in winter wheat
- Research on herbicide resistant weeds
- Precision agriculture weed research
- Herbicide/soil interactions
- Gene flow in winter wheat
- Weed shifts in diverse weed management systems
- Perennial and noxious weed control
Scott Nissen, PhD: Principal Investigator
My responsibilities include research (applied and basic), outreach (Cooperative Extension) and some teaching. When I first came to CSU in 1995 my focus was integrated weed management in row crops. I concentrated on crops like onion, sugar beet, dry bean and potato. This applied research has been supported by the various commodity groups; however, agriculture along the Colorado’s Front Range is being displaced by an increasing population. Many communities are trying to preserve the quality of life in Colorado by purchasing farmland to establish open space and natural areas. These areas are highly disturbed and susceptible to invasion by numerous weed species; therefore, over the past three years I have been involved in more research dealing with invasive species management and adaptive strategies to establish desirable plant communities. The goal of this research is to establish sustainable plant communities that can resist re-invasion. Herbicides are an important management tool, so we also focus on herbicide fate in the environment and non-target impacts.
Todd Gaines, PhD: Principal Investigator
My research goal is to support sustainable weed management that helps contribute to sustainable cropping systems. To that end, I am interested in research to identify the molecular and genetic basis of complex herbicide resistance mechanisms; utilizing next-generation sequencing to study complex traits in weeds; and developing molecular markers for rapid resistance diagnostics. Research projects in my lab study changes in evolutionary trajectories of weedy species due to human management (specifically herbicides and herbicide resistance evolution), and develop genomics and bioinformatics resources to study herbicide resistance traits in weedy species and crops.
Franck E. Dayan, PhD: Principal Investigator
I joined the faculty of BSPM in January 2016 after a 20-year career as a research plant physiologist for the USDA-ARS. I am interested in functional weed genomics and my research program encompasses applied projects on herbicide mode of action and evolution of resistance in weeds to more basic projects aiming to use genomic approaches to decipher traits imparting weediness (competition, cold and heat stress tolerance etc…). My expertise in plant biochemistry and physiology as well as chemical ecology complements the efforts already in place in other groups at Colorado State University.
Karl Ravet, PhD: Principal Investigator – Research Scientist
Crop yield reduction as a consequence of increasingly severe climatic events threatens global food security. Integrated climate change and crop production models project declines in the yields of major crops such as corn, wheat and rice with serious ramifications on global food production this century. Agricultural productivity will be at least maintained if reduction in yield caused by abiotic stress is minimized.
In the coming decades, predicted stresses and yield limiting factors include water surplus or deficit, ion toxicity and deficiency, and temperature extremes.
Plants exhibit stress tolerance or stress avoidance through acclimation and adaptation mechanisms that have evolved through evolution and natural selection. A cache of genetic diversity that is accessible for the improvement of yield stability resides in the germplasm of crops’ wild relatives and weedy species that grow in wide geographical and climatic ranges. Another source of genetic diversity resides within populations of a given species, where natural selection in a given environment resulted in a beneficial genetic drift.
Recent progress in genome sequencing technologies has allowed for extensive comparative genomics. This has led to an increased discovery of gene copy number variation (CNV) as an important source of genomic diversity, which contributes to adaptive potential. Therefore, mining for specific CNVs that contribute to adaptive abiotic stress tolerance traits will enable potential application to our future agriculture.
Eric Patterson: Lab Manager and Graduate Student, Todd Gaines
I received a double B.S. in Zoology/Biology in 2009 and a M.S. in Botany in 2013 from Colorado State University. I wrote my master’s thesis on copper homeostasis and the effects of copper deficiency on plant cells. My research interests range from molecular biology and bioinformatics to plant physiology and plant health. I am particularly interested in herbicide homeostasis pathways and responses to herbicides at the molecular level. As lab manager, I support Todd’s projects and provide support for the graduate student researchers. I also teach at night courses at AIMS community college in introductory and evolutionary biology.
Anita Küpper: Graduate Student, Todd Gaines
I received my B.S. in Environmental Impact Assessment from the University of Koblenz in Germany in 2011. Two years later I graduated from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark with a M.S. in Environmental Chemistry and Health. I wrote my thesis with focus on toxicological impacts at the University of California, Riverside. Since 2014 I am working on my Ph.D. in Bioagricultural Sciences in the Weed Research Lab under Dr. Todd Gaines. I am especially interested in the molecular and genetic basis of herbicide resistance. Currently my research focuses on the mode of resistance of 2,4-D in Indian hedge mustard (Sisymbrium orientale) and HPPD inhibitors in Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri). I am also working on a project about the genetic relatedness of glyphosate-resistant populations of Palmer amaranth.
Marcelo Rodrigues Alves de Figueiredo: Graduate Student, Todd Gaines
I received my B.S. in Agricultural Engineering from the University of São Paulo at the “Luiz de Queiroz” College of Agriculture, Brazil in 2012. As an undergraduate, I worked on applied field research in weed science. In 2015 I completed a M.S. in Crop Science at the same College, focusing on herbicide chemistry, physiology and biochemistry in weeds and model plant species. My current Ph.D. research is focused on weed genetics and molecular biology. Specifically, I am studying the complex issue of weed resistance to auxinic herbicides. My main objective is to integrate related genetic, biochemical, physiological and agronomic knowledge of these resistant species in order to provide effective weed management plans for agricultural production systems.
Curtis Hildebrandt: Graduate Student, Todd Gaines
I grew up in Eastern Colorado on a small irrigated farm where we grew corn and wheat. Additionally, my father is also an aerial sprayer who deals with many insect and weed crop pests. This is where my interest in agriculture and pest control got its start. I got my B.S. at Colorado State University in Soil and Crop Science, with a concentration in Soil Science, and an additional minor in Chemistry. I am currently pursuing a M.S. degree in the department of Weed Science under the direction of Dr. Phil Westra, looking into the effect of aminocyclopyrachlor on desirable tree species, and will be pursuing a Ph.D. under the direction of Dr. Todd Gaines, where we will try to develop herbicide resistant wheat varieties through induced mutagenesis.
Neeta Soni: Graduate Student, Todd Gaines
I am originally from Costa Rica. I received my B.S. in Agronomy in 2009 from EARTH University, Costa Rica. I worked as a research assistant in the same institution. Later on I worked for ECOM agroindustrial group in Costa Rica doing extension work with coffee farmers to improve their agriculture practices. In 2014, I received my M.S. in Agronomy with a minor in Soil and Water Sciences from the University of Florida. My research was looking for the effects of vinasse and biochar (byproducts of bioenergy production) on weed germination, growth and control. In summer 2015, I joined the Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management department for my Ph.D. program in Weed Science under the advisory of Dr. Todd Gaines. I am interested in and weed biology and molecular genetics to address herbicide resistance issues. Currently my research is focused on herbicide resistance traits in sunflower. In addition, I am working on a seed retention study of winter annual grass weeds at wheat harvest on Eastern Colorado. At the same time I am collecting samples of annual grass weed species for an herbicide resistance survey.
Abby Barker: Graduate Student, Franck Dayan
I graduated with my B.S. in biochemistry, with math and chemistry minors, from Colorado State University in 2016. My undergraduate research under Todd Gaines led me to an interest in agricultural sciences and more specifically herbicide resistance in weeds. Last fall I began my PhD under Franck Dayan. My project focuses on elucidating the mechanism of PPO-inhibiting herbicides as well as precise mechanisms of resistance in multiple species, including Amaranthus tuberculatus. I am interested in the biochemistry of herbicide resistance, as well as the fate of herbicides in resistant plants and crops. When not in the lab I train for triathlons as well as mountain biking and hiking.
Adrian Quicke: Graduate Student, Franck Dayan
Originally from Auburn, Alabama, I received my B.S. in Health and Exercise Science with a minor in Biochemistry from Colorado State in 2016. During my undergraduate career, I was fortunate to be able to work as a research assistant in the lab of Dr. Todd Gaines. I was exposed to a broad background in molecular biology assisting with many ongoing projects, as well as heading a project developing genetic markers for Kochia scoparia in order to examine the evolutionary history of glyphosate resistance within the species.
I am currently working on a M.S. degree under Dr. Franck Dayan. My project focuses on the herbicide glufosinate, understanding factors responsible for the variable responses observed and its dependence on environmental conditions. We are examining how treatment affects various components of the photorespiratory pathway, and will hopefully be able to identify potential targets to improve the efficacy of the herbicide. We are also working to develop a bioassay to detect glufosinate-resistant weeds in the field.
Outside of the lab, I am an avid runner, and also enjoy hiking, skiing, Frisbee, and other outdoor activities.
Olivia Todd: Graduate Student, Todd Gaines
Originally from Loveland, CO I came along way to CSU. In 2016, I graduated from Colorado State University and the University honor program with a B.S. in Soil and Crop Science with a specialization in plant biotechnology, genetics and breeding. After completing my senior honor thesis with Todd, I have decided to focus my energy on herbicide resistance and developing herbicide tolerance traits in crops. I am currently a Master’s student under Todd Gaines, working to use mutagenesis to develop herbicide tolerance traits in the cereal grain, sorghum. I am also currently working on characterizing resistance to the herbicide fluroxypyr in the invasive species, kochia scoparia. When I’m not in the lab, you can find me climbing with the CSU climbing team, painting inside, enjoying a beer, or out in the mountains on the weekends.
Mirella Farinelli Ortiz: Graduate student, Scott Nissen
Originally from Brazil, I received my B.S. in Agronomy from University of São Paulo in 2015. During my undergraduate I worked with weed resistance and management in Brazil and spend my last year as an undergrad working in the lab of Dr. Scott Nissen.
I am currently a Master’s student under Scott, working with aquatic weeds and their management. My focus is to fully understand how endothall works in the plant and its fate. I’m also working with the ester formulation of 2,4-D and its behavior in aquatic weeds. Outside the lab I enjoy hanging out with friends and most of the outdoors activities.
Crystal Sparks: Undergraduate Researcher
Majoring in Soil and Crop Science, with a concentration in plant genetics, breeding, and biotechnology, spring 2016 is my first semester as a student at Colorado State University. I am transferring in as a junior after recently completing an associate of science degree at AIMS Community College. A few months prior I joined the Gaines lab, where I have begun to learn molecular techniques and skills that will support my research interest and career goals. While assisting with several of the lab’s current projects I have been exposed to concepts such as gene copy number variation, molecular cloning, herbicide resistance mechanisms, plant metabolism and physiology, and more. I feel immensely grateful for the opportunity to gain this knowledge and experience.
Some of my future research interests and topics of concern include: Investigating issues faced by growers, at a molecular and genetic level. Utilizing traditional plant breeding alongside biotechnology to develop useful and economical cultivars of crop or medicinal plants. Seeking solutions to malnutrition amid a growing population and disputed climates. Minimizing impacts of crop production on surrounding ecosystems and public health.
Christopher Van Horn, PhD: Graduated Summer 2016
After graduating with his PhD under the advisement of Dr. Phil Westra, Christopher took a post-doc position with the USDA-ARS under Dr. Jianchi Chen doing genomic sequence analysis of Xyllella fastidiosa bacterial strains causing Pierce’s disease in grapevine. He now lives with his wife and two children in the San Joaquin Valley, CA.
Derek Sebastian: Graduated Spring 2017
Derek Sebastian completed his MS at CSU in 2014 and was co-advised by Drs. Phil Westra and Scott Nissen. He continued on to finish his PhD in 2017 under the guidance of Dr. Scott Nissen and is now a member of the Bayer VM Stewardship and Development Team where he continues to develop indaziflam in the western US.
Dean Pettinga: Graduated Fall 2016
I’m a graduate of Calvin College in my hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan. I received my degree in biology with a minor in biochemistry.Food security is one of the greatest problems facing the world in this century. This problem does not have any individual solution. I see problems and opportunities for improvement in everything from personal eating habits to natural resource management and technology. Due to my interests in basic biology, I hope to approach this problem from a scientific perspective. The opportunity to work in a lab with these facilities and interests, solving problems directly relevant to farmers drew me to the Gaines Lab.
When I’m not in the lab, I like to spend my time on a hike, run, bike ride, a day skiing in the mountains, or anything else that gets me outdoors.
Kallie Kessler: Graduate Student, Scott Nissen
I grew up in Colorado and began my education at the University of Colorado where I received a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. After graduation, I worked for Denver’s Natural Areas Program where I developed a passion for restoration and weed management. This passion ultimately led me to the Weed Science Program here at Colorado State University. During my M.S. Program, I researched the integration of herbicides and prescribed burning to restore cheatgrass invaded rangelands. Specifically, I analyzed the effect of litter on herbicide bioavailablity. I am now in a PhD Program under the advisement of Dr. Scott Nissen. My current research is focused on investigating the mechanism of 2,4-D tolerance in Eurasian watermilfoil X Northern watermilfoil hybrids. In my spare time I enjoy hiking with my husband and dog, mountain biking and skiing.