Justin L. Conover, PhD
NSF Plant Genome Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Arizona
Hello! I am an evolutionary biologist interested in how plant genomes change over both long (species-level and above) and short (population-level) periods of time. My work entails a mix of empirical and computational approaches in comparative genomics, population genetics, and phylogenomics.
Plant genome evolution is a fascinating process with a number of fundamental questions that remain unanswered. My research focuses on one universal aspect of plant genome evolution -- deciphering the evolutionary mysteries of whole genome duplication events (polyploidy). Specifically, I focus on how natural selection may act differently in polyploids versus diploids at various timescales, ranging from the population level to comparisons between species within an order or family. My dissertation primarily used cotton as a model system, although I have branched out into other polyploid plant systems, including peanut, wheat, and quinoa. I am currently a NSF Plant Genome Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Arizona, where I am working with Dr. Michael Barker and Dr. Ryan Gutenkunst on exploring how recent and ancient polyploidy events change the distribution of fitness effects, using Brassica crops as a model system. Previously, I completed my dissertation with Dr. Jonathan Wendel at Iowa State University, where I worked closely with the labs of Drs. Dan Sloan (Colorado State University), Joel Sharbrough (New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology) and Dan Peterson (Mississippi State University) to better understand various aspects of genome evolution following polyploidy, including genome reorganization, homoeologous gene conversion and genome-wide patterns of gene loss, and the scale, scope, and functional consequences of the accumulation and purging of genetic load.