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What’s the Story, Morning Glory?

New assistant professor of biological sciences Regina Baucom studies the evolution of herbicide resistance in morning glories.

Date: 5/7/2010
By: Kim Burdett
Phone: (513) 556-8577
Photos By: Kim Burdett
An undergraduate research experience catapulted Regina Baucom into the world of science. In a biology honors program at the University of Tennessee, she created a research project that looked at the impact of logging on genetic diversity in Great Smoky Mountain sugar maples (Acer saccharum).

Biological Sciences Assistant Professor Regina Baucom.
Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences Regina Baucom.

“I guess I started out thinking I wanted to go into nonprofit organizations, working with environmental groups,” Baucom says. “But then I started to think about the impact of humans on evolutionary trajectories of species. How can humans impact the natural world in ways we’re not really thinking about?”

Now an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Cincinnati, Baucom continues to ask these questions.

Her current research focuses on the tolerance and resistance of morning glories (Ipomoea purpurea) to Roundup, a common herbicide used in the U.S. She published on the topic in Evolutionary Ecology Research.

She began studying the evolution of tolerance as a doctoral student at University of Georgia, where she received her PhD in genetics in 2006. A postdoctoral fellowship at UGA gave her the opportunity to help annotate the maize genome and look at genetic complexities of the plant. Her work on the maize genome was recently published in both Science and PLoS Genetics.

“I’m focusing on how humans can cause selection in agricultural systems,” she says. “In general, transgenic technology is helping food production but because of its overuse, we’re having an increase in the evolution of weed resistance to herbicides.”

Morning glories.
Baucom conducts research on the weed morning glories.

These herbicide-resistant weeds—called superweeds in a recent New York Times article—are forcing farmers to combat them with more toxic herbicides, which can lead to increased food prices, farm costs and pollution of land and water.

Baucom’s current goal is to identify the genetic basis of herbicide resistance in morning glories and determine if different populations adapt to the herbicide in the same manner.

She is in the process of setting up her lab, growing morning glories in the biology department’s greenhouse, and taking advantage of the Cincinnati Center for Field Studies (CCFS). The field station in Miami Whitewater Forest provides a living lab for students, teachers and scientists to conduct hands-on research.

“I’m excited to work at the field station,” Baucom says. “It’s one of the main reasons I was drawn to UC.”

Baucom and her husband—a genome informatics postdoctoral fellow who is working for the National Science Foundation’s iPlant Collaborative, a $50-million cyberinfrastructure collaborative for the plant sciences—have one son and are expecting a daughter.

Read more about the Department of Biological Sciences:

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UC Scientists Determine That Ancient Maya Practiced Forest Conservation 3,000 Years Ago
Researchers from the University of Cincinnati find the forest and water conservation practices of the ancient Maya hold lessons for the future — ours.

UC to Create 'Living Lab' in Park  
The agreement with the Hamilton County Park District provides a Cincinnati Center for Field Studies — a living lab for students, teachers and scientists to conduct hands-on research in archeology, geology and environmental studies — and more.

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