Gina Baucom | Assistant Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology & Sustainable Food Systems cluster hire 

Ever wondered what genome structure has to do with the sweet potatoes on our Thanksgiving table? Or how morning glory plants have evolved into weeds? Dr. Gina Baucom and her research team have pondered these questions in the lab, out in the field and late at night. For our first faculty spotlight, Dr. Baucom answered a few questions that don’t require scientific research.

Baucom2Where did you grow up? All around the Southeast part of the United States–Chattanooga, TN, Lexington, KY, Bluefield, VA, and Hurricane, WV

What are you currently reading? Parable of the Sower by Olivia Butler

What brought you to UM? The dynamic nature of research in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department, the strength of the liberal arts program, and the progressiveness of Ann Arbor.

In what ways does your work relate to sustainable food systems? A number of the projects currently underway in my lab examine rapid evolution in the agricultural system. We focus on weedy plant characteristics that make them good competitors, as well as traits that allow them to persist following extreme selection from herbicides. Weedy plant infestations in crops reduce farmer’s yields, and as such around $26 billion dollars are spent per year trying to mitigate their influence. Researching the traits that make a plant a weed may help us to develop strategies for their control.

Do you have any advice for students interested in food systems careers? When choosing a program or a topic of study, do not pigeonhole yourself into a mindset that follows a “This is the way it has always been done” mantra. Look for a place that will allow you to broach new topics and ideas.

What classes are you teaching in Winter 2016? Biology 305: Genetics

Tell us about your current research interests. We are currently researching the genetics underlying herbicide resistance, the patterns of genome evolution across a landscape, and the potential for character displacement on below ground plant traits (roots). We use the common morning glory (Ipomoea purpurea) and its relatives for these questions.

How do you like to spend your time when you’re not researching/teaching/working? Exercising, gardening, reading, and playing with my hilarious kids