Cheatgrass Ecological Genetics

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What it's about

What we did


What we found out

Cheatgrass is an amazingly successful weed that has invaded native vegetation across a wide range of habitats from salt playas to pine forests. Our studies are aimed at understanding how this plant thrives in so many different environments.

All cheatgrass looks similar to the untrained eye, but we have learned through the use of molecular markers and greenhouse common environment experiments that all cheatgrass is not created equal. Notice the size difference of different accessions.

We have learned that the ability to invade new habitats formerly outside the ecological range is associated with the introduction of specialist genotypes that can thrive in marginal environments where run-of-the-mill cheatgrass does poorly.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Susan Meyer
Co-PI: Dr. Craig Coleman
Collaborator: Dr. Beth Leger
Technical Support:
 Dr. Alisa Ramakrishnan
Sudeep Ghimire, Keith Merrill, Nada Oussible,

Ramakrishnan AP, Meyer SE, Waters J, Stevens MR, Coleman CE, Fairbanks DJ (2004). Correlation between molecular markers and adaptively significant genetic variation in Bromus tectorum (Poaceae), an inbreeding annual grass. Am J Bot 91:797–803

Ramakrishnan AP, Meyer SE, Fairbanks DJ, Coleman CE (2006) Ecological significance of microsatellite variation in western North American populations of Bromus tectorum. Plant Spec Biol 21:61–73

Leger E, Espeland E, Merrill KR, Meyer SE (2009) Genetic variation and local adaptation at a cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) invasion edge in western Nevada. Mol Ecol 18:4366–4379.

Scott JW, Meyer SE, Merrill KR, Anderson VJ. 2010. Local population differentiation in Bromus tectorum in relation to habitat-specific selection regimes. Evol. Ecol. 24:1061-1080.

cheatgrass size differencesKeith Merrill in genetics labSuzette and Sudeep outcrossing experiment cheatgrass outcrossing experiment

Cheatgrass in the greenhouse

Keith in the genetics lab

Outcrossing experiment, earlier and later