A Tale of Two Vines: The Far Reaching and Few Between”

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Date(s) - Thursday, March 1, 2018
7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

Bethel Lutheran Church


The public is welcome to attend our March Chapter meeting when the program will be on Kudzu, one of the most notorious invasive species in the U.S. Kudzu has been planted far and wide and now occupies most of the eastern portion of the United States. Introduced from Asia about 140 years ago, this large vine is continuing to make headway across the U.S. landscape. Even though this plant has become a cultural icon in the southeast U.S., it is still not understood how many times it has been introduced from Asia or from what genetic source(s). My lab has focused on answering these questions.  As an invasive species, Kudzu also impacts native species, including other native legume vines.  The wild thicket bean or North American wild kidney bean (Phaseolus polystachios) is one such species.  The thicket bean is an important crop wild relative to the cultivated Lima bean and thus acts as a critical genetic resource for plant breeding efforts, yet its range is in decline along much the same boundaries where Kudzu is advancing. I am collaborating to understand the conservation genetics of this species, native to Virginia, and have completed significant efforts to characterize its conservation status.

Dr. Ashley N. Egan is a research scientist and assistant curator at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution where she specializes in legume biology (Fabaceae).  Ashley completed her undergraduate degree at Utah State University studying the population genetics of the trout lily, Erythronium grandiflorum. She then completed here PhD in Molecular and Evolutionary Biology at Brigham Young University in 2006, studying the Evolutionary History of North American members of Tribe Psoraleeae. She then took a position at Cornell University doing a postdoc in the evolutionary genetics and genomics of soybean and allies, and has continued much of this work to this day.  She taught as an assistant professor at East Carolina University for three years where she began her work studying the evolutionary genetics and introduction history of Kudzu, part of which she will share with us today.  After moving to the Smithsonian, Dr. Egan has continued her work with Kudzu and established a broadly inclusive research program on the evolutionary history of legumes, with interests in phylogenetics, systematics, population biology, conservation genetics, and evolutionary genomics.

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