Annaliese S Mason


My main research is in the area of genetics and genomics, and more specifically in polyploidy, interspecific hybridisation and evolution. I am particularly interested in how new species evolve through hybridisation, i.e. how two species can come together to form a new species with genetic information from both parent species. This process is now known to be very common, particularly in the flowering plants, and is responsible for a lot of our agriculturally significant food crops. Examples of hybrid or many-genome (polyploid) species include wheat, potato, sugarcane, banana and canola.

The Brassica genus, which includes many important crops such as canola, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, turnip and mustards, provides an excellent model with which to explore the process of hybrid species formation. The species which comprises canola (B. napus), for instance, is an evolutionary hybrid between the species containing our cultivated cabbages (B. oleracea) and the species containing turnip, buk choy and other related vegetable types (B. rapa).

I am currently utilising high-throughput molecular genetics approaches coupled with traditional and molecular cytogenetics in novel interspecific hybrid populations to investigate mechanisms of hybrid formation in Brassica, and how hybrids regulate meiosis and chromosome pairing behaviour in order to form a new, stable and fertile species.

By investigating how hybrid species form, I hope to work out how to utilise these natural evolutionary processes for human agricultural benefit, making new Brassica crop types for food, oil and biofuel. Hybridisation and genome doubling are processes which often result in increased vigour and ability to exploit different environmental niches in nature. Hence, if we can harness these processes to produce new hybrid species, such species may have a wider tolerance of environmental conditions such as heat, drought and disease, which would be beneficial to human agriculture.

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