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Lauren Audi


Major Adviser: Nyree Zerega, PhD

Research: Genetic characterization of Caribbean Breadfruit and its global implications: Advancing food security and local sustainable agriculture via germplasm conservation and collaboration with local growers.

Research Interests:  genetic conservation; economic botany; genetic rescue; restoration ecology; climate change; urban ecology; ex situ conservation

Current Research: Breadfruit is an important underutilized crop from Oceania that has a long history of cultivation resulting in a high degree of morphologic and genetic diversity across its range. In the late 1700’s Captain Bligh deposited breadfruit in the Caribbean via St. Vincent. Today, St. Vincent recognized 25 varieties of breadfruit, many of which may be unique to the Caribbean. Past attempts to genetically characterize breadfruit varieties used AFLP and microsatellite markers were unsuccessful for differentiating between many of the seedless varieties, like those found in the Caribbean and Eastern Polynesia. Recent success using sequence target methods to harvest SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) in Artocarpus species and in seedless breadfruit show that they may be more successful in cultivar identification. During the Summer of 2017 I completed field work in St. Vincent. I collected morphological, GIS and ethnobotanical data on as many varieties of breadfruit as possible. Using genomic methods, I compared the samples from Saint Vincent to the global collection of breadfruit to determine 1. how many varieties of breadfruit exist in Saint Vincent 2. Which varieties are they most closely related to globally and 3. Which varieties are unique to Saint Vincent. In addition, in partnership with the Saint Vincent Botanical Gardens, I helped to establish a germplasm collection and provide a factory-in-a-box to a local farmers group. Ultimately this information will provide valuable insight into the diversification of breadfruit in the Caribbean as well as provide the means to conserve an important underutilized crop species. This project was in close collaboration with the Saint Vincent Botanical Gardens, Trees that Feed Foundation and the Breadfruit Institute of the National Tropical Botanic Gardens.

Other Projects:
Genetic Rescue of Hawaiian Lobelia using Genetic Sequencing (HybSeq),
Research Assistant 2017-18
Conduct genomic sequencing and data analysis using Illumina sequencing protocol and MySQL data analysis of Rare Hawaiian Lobelia including Brighamia insignis, Brighmia Rockii and select species of Delessia, Cyanea and Clermontia. Work collaboratively to create a studbook and conservation management plan for all known ex situ Brighamia insignis individuals with the ultimate goal of improving success of crosses. Other Hawaiian Lobelia will benefit from increased knowledge of genetic relationships between populations for conservation and management concern.
Phylogeny of Brosimum (Moraceae)
Mongolia Fossil Project, Research Assistant 2016-17
Grants, Honors and Awards:
2017 Clinton Global Initiative University Conference
2017 ISEN, Resnick Social Impact Fund Grant Award
2017 Alumnae of Northwestern, Alumnae Grant Award
2017 Garden Club of America, Summer Scholarship in Field Botany
2017 Botanical Society of America, Graduate Student Research Award
2017 Northwestern University, Plant Biology and Conservation Research Award