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.
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).
Dr. Chelsea Specht (Associate Professor, University of California, Berkeley) gives SDSU’s first James Crouch Lecture on Monday, May 9th 2016: “PETALOIDY AND POLLINATION: THE EVOLUTION OF FLORAL FORM IN THE ZINGIBERALES.” A fantastic mix of phylogeny, molecular evolution, a comparative morphology! We had a chance to visit the Torrey Pines State Reserve with Dr. Mike Simpson.
Elliott Kennerson reports on ‘The Bombardier Beetle And Its Crazy Chemical Cannon‘ for KQED Science’s Deep Look program. Learn about the bombardier beetle, what we know about it’s explosive chemistry, and some of our hypotheses as to how this system may have evolved. Collaborator Dr. Kip Will (UC Berkeley) stars in this video (alongside the bombardier Brachinus)!