Earlier this summer the National Science Foundation awarded over $1.5million in funding support for a project to sequence the Joshua tree genome and learn how the twisty, spiky plants survive harsh desert climates — and a portion of that funding went to CSUN Assistant Professor of Biology Jeremy Yoder.
Yoder is a collaborator on the Joshua Tree Genome Project, which launched four years ago with a crowdfunding campaign to begin the complex task of sequencing and piecing together a single tree’s genome sequence. Such a “reference genome” can be used as a framework to identify genes involved in interesting traits. The new NSF funding will support completion of the reference genome and extensive experimental work to measure the growth and physiology of Joshua trees in experimental desert gardens. Different elements of the project will be carried out by Yoder’s lab at CSUN and by collaborators at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, the Universities of Alabama and Hawai’i, and the US Geological Survey Western Ecological Research Station in Henderson, Nevada, with money allocated to support graduate students, undergraduate researchers and interns, and postdoctoral researchers.
Work on the project began in August, and with thousands of Joshua tree seeds planted in a USGS greenhouse — when they’ve sprouted and grown up into robust seedlings, they should be ready for transplant into the experimental gardens early next year.
Image: Joshua trees in flower at Saddleback Butte State Park, spring 2019 (photo by Jeremy Yoder)