Washington University in St. Louis
Campus Box 1137
One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
DBBS graduate programs Evolution, Ecology and Population Biology Program
Plant and Microbial Biosciences Program
My research focuses on the genetic basis of evolution in plants: how is the genetic variation that we find within a species shaped by natural selection, population history, and other evolutionary forces? One way that I look at this question is by using crop domestication as a model for rapid evolutionary change. The wealth of genetic and genomic information available for crops makes them useful for studying the molecular evolution of genes in response to selection and other forces. In my lab we also study the evolutionary genetics of wild plant species. Topics of interest include the genetic basis of adaptive variation, the forces affecting genome-wide patterns of linkage disequilibrium, and phylogeography.
Photo caption: Most rice varieties contain the starch amylose, which stains black with iodine (left), while glutinous rice (right) lacks this starch. A single nucleotide mutation at the Waxy gene during the domestication of rice has led to the formation of the glutinous phenotype. This mutation arose initially in Southeast Asia, where glutinous rice remains an important staple food.
Olsen, K.M., N.J. Kooyers, and L.L. Small (2013). Recurrent gene deletions and the evolution of adaptive cyanogenesis polymorphisms in white clover (Trifolium repens L.). Molecular Ecology 22: 724-738.
Vigueira, C.C., K.M. Olsen, and A.L. Caicedo. (2013). The red queen in the corn: agricultural weeds as models of rapid adaptive evolution. Heredity 110: 303-311.
Trejo, L., P. Feria, K.M. Olsen, L.E. Eguiarte, B. Arroyo, J.A. Gruhn, and M.E. Olson (2012). Poinsettia's wild ancestor in the Mexican dry tropics: historical, genetic, and environmental evidence. American Journal of Botany 99: 1146-1157.
Olsen, K.M. (2012). One gene's shattering effects. Nature Genetics 44: 616-617.
Kooyers, NJ, and KM Olsen (2012). Rapid evolution of an adaptive cyanogenesis cline in introduced North American white clover (Trifolium repens L.). Molecular Ecology, in press.
Gunn, BF, L Baudouin, and KM Olsen (2011). Independent origins of cultivated coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) in the Old World Tropics. PLoS ONE 6: e21143.
Yu, G, KM Olsen, and BA Schaal (2011). Association between nonsynonymous mutations of Starch Synthase IIa and starch quality in rice (Oryza sativa). New Phytologist 189: 593–601.
Lee, S, Y Jia, DR Gealy, M Jia, KM Olsen, and AL Caicedo (2011). Molecular Evolution of the Rice Blast Resistance Gene Pi-ta in Invasive Weedy Rice in the USA. PLoS ONE 6: e26260.
Reagon, M, CS Thurber, KM Olsen, Y Jia, and AL Caicedo (2010) Genomic patterns of nucleotide diversity in divergent populations of invasive U.S. weedy rice. BMC Evolutionary Biology 10: 180.
Gross, BL and KM Olsen (2010). Genetic perspectives on crop domestication. Trends in Plant Science 15: 529-537.
Gross, BL, FT Steffen, and KM Olsen (2010). Molecular basis of white pericarps in African domesticated rice: Novel mutations at the Rc gene. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 23: 2747–2753.
Yu, G, KM Olsen, and BA Schaal (2010). Molecular evolution of endosperm starch synthesis pathway genes in rice (Oryza sativa L.) and its wild ancestor, O. rufipogon L. Molecular Biology and Evolution 28: 659–671.
Gross BL, Hsu S-C, Caicedo AL, Jia Y, Olsen KM (2010). Seeing red: the origin of grain pigmentation in US weedy rice. Molecular Ecology 19: 3380-3393.