Imani Ritchards

Imani Ritchards
Year: 2016

The Impact of Drought Stress on the Kinetics of Water Intake in Select

Project Summary

Drought is one of the most notorious stressors that plague our crops. Therefore, it is important to develop plants that are durable and can withstand periods of water stress. Drought response genes can be challenging to isolate, but the use of introgression lines (ILs) can mitigate this challenge somewhat by taking advantage of the fact that wild ancestors of many cultivated crops are reservoirs for stress-tolerant genes. ILs combine overlapping fragments of the wild ancestor’s genome with the genome of cultivated lines. These insertions can then be mapped and IL plants can be screened for phenotypic changes. From this information quantitative trait loci (QTLs) can be identified and the functions of the genes in the inserted regions can be deduced.

In order to try to isolate drought resistant QTLs we have screened selected lines from thelycopersicoides IL population. These lines were subjected to drought stress conditions and then were recovered from stress. During this process, the kinetics of water intake were monitored and differences between some of the ILs were observed. The outcome of this research and subsequent research should help provide a better understanding of the basic mechanisms governing drought tolerance in tomato. It will also supply useful tools for plant breeders as they tailor new varieties of crops to cope with the climate change and population demands of the twenty-first century.

My Experience

My ten weeks at Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) have been invaluable. I have gained many insights into the research process and have met and gotten to work alongside so many inspiring and dedicated researchers. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I have spent working in the Giovannoni lab and with my mentor, Ari Feder. Ari has been a fantastic guide this summer—providing guidance and support but also letting me be independent at times. I have learned a number of valuable lab techniques, analyzed data, solved problems, but most importantly, I have grown more confident as a biologist. It has been delightful to get to be a part of the important work that is conducted at BTI and I have developed a new perspective on the importance of research in the plant sciences. Although my time at BTI has come to a close, I will be able to take the skills I learned with me throughout my career as a scientist.