What do we do?
We explore evolutionary patterns and processes that drive functional diversification. We are particularly interested in how multi-species interactions shape diversity on a genome-wide scale and influence form and function. Our research combines applied molecular biology with next-generation sequencing, bioinformatics, and phylogenetics. We use plants and insects as models to study adaptation and current projects focus on the evolution of chemical and structural defenses.
News! We recently moved to the Department of Entomology at Pennsylvania State University in July 2017.
More News! Adam Rork officially joined the lab in August 2017 as a Ph.D. student in the Department of Entomology. Adam most recently came from Maryville University, where he studied Amorphophallus titanum floral volatiles with Dr. Kyra Krakos. See an article on his past research here.
On Sunday, PhD student Adam Rork and I headed out to Penn State’s Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center, which is about 10 miles southwest of University Park and comprises 2,000 acres of land. Our hearts were set on assessing which carabids are active this time of year near the margin of the plots. It’s been getting a little cooler in central PA as we head into Fall (earlier than normal, so we’ve heard), so we weren’t quite sure what we’d find! To our delight, we found more than we expected. To read more about ground beetles that are common in our area of PA, see this article. Many are important biological control agents in agroecosystems.
Our NSF-funded CarabidQ team held its 2nd annual meeting at the Stevens Institute of Technology, hosted by Dr. Athula Attygalle’s laboratory. We had three productive days sharing recent results and learning the methods behind GC-MS. We were excited to welcome Adam Rork, a new Ph.D. student in the Renner Lab, to the CarabidQ team!
Our carnivorous bladderwort genome paper came out today in PNAS!
“Carnivorous plants capture and digest animal prey for nutrition. In addition to being carnivorous, the humped bladderwort plant, Utricularia gibba, has the smallest reliably assembled flowering plant genome. We generated an updated genome assembly based on single-molecule sequencing to address questions regarding the bladderwort’s genome adaptive landscape. Among encoded genes, we segregated those that could be confidently distinguished as having derived from small-scale versus whole-genome duplication processes and showed that conspicuous expansions of gene families useful for prey trapping and processing derived mainly from localized duplication events. Such small-scale, tandem duplicates are therefore revealed as essential elements in the bladderwort’s carnivorous adaptation.” Read the entire manuscript here.
Recently, our research was featured on SDSU NewsCenter: ‘Don’t Bug this Beetle’.
‘Brachinus elongatulus, more commonly known as the bombardier beetle, is a fellow you do not want to agitate. When this beetle feels threatened, it blasts boiling hot, noxious chemicals from its body in rapid-fire fashion. And the smell is not pleasant either.
“It’s a foul-smelling liquid that is quite shocking and distasteful to predators such as toads,” said Tanya Renner, an assistant professor in San Diego State University’s biology department. If a predator tries to eat the bombardier, it gets a mouthful of this unpalatable liquid.’
Read the full SDSU NewsCenter Article here.
Our team’s bombardier beetle proposal has been selected as one of five finalists to undergo a popular vote for the world’s most interesting genome! The final winner receives Pacific Biosciences (PacBio) SMRT Sequencing and genome assembly. A bombardier beetle genome will accelerate our ongoing NSF-funded research, helping us to resolve the genetic basis of carabid beetle chemical defense.
Vote YES for the Explosive Bombardier Beetle through April 5th: https://tinyurl.com/gn84mu8
Undergraduate researchers Zach Johnston and Nick Elliott win the Provost’s Award for the best poster at the San Diego State University Student Research Symposium (SRS). Poster title: “Molecular Evolution and Expression of Defense Genes Underlying Plant Carnivory”. Way to go! The SRS is a two-day event recognizing the outstanding scholarly accomplishments of SDSU students. Find out more about the San Diego State University’s SRS.
Emma Longmire receives the prestigious Latinos in Technology STEM Scholarship! Congratulations! Emma is an undergraduate researcher in the Renner Lab studying the genetic basis of plant carnivory in the Caryophyllales using methods in transcriptomics.
The 2016 ICPS conference was held at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in England this August 2016. It was a fantastic meeting spanning topics in carnivorous plant systematics, evo-devo, molecular evolution, ecology, biomechanics, and horticulture. We had a chance to visit the famous Kew Herbarium, view a type specimen ofNepenthes rajah, and see some original correspondences with Joseph Hooker. Sir David Attenborough even visited us for a short but glorious moment to receive a painting of Nepenthes attenboroughii! We ended our meeting with a visit to Down House, the home of Charles Darwin. All in all, a great meeting. See you at the next meeting!
Here’s to a successful first NSF PI meeting with (from the left): Sihang Xu (Ph.D. student, Stevens Institute of Technology), Dr. Athula Attygalle (PI, Stevens Institute of Technology), Dr. Wendy Moore (PI, University of Arizona), Dr. Kipling Will (PI, UC Berkeley), Dr. Tanya Renner (PI, San Diego State University), Dr. Aman Gill (Postdoctoral Researcher, UC Berkeley), Reilly Mcmanus (Master’s Student, University of Arizona).