Monday, March 17, 2014- Elizabeth Milano, current research on cellulosic ethanol and switchgrass genetics


Elizabeth Milano, a PhD student in Integrative Biology at UT-Austin, joined us to talk about her research on the underlying genetic architecture of switchgrass  (Panicum virgatum), a major candidate biofuel crop. Cellulosic ethanol derived from perennial feedstocks, such as switchgrass, produces higher returns on energy inputs and less greenhouse gases and is less damaging to ecosystems than corn-based ethanol. Additionally, switchgrass is native across most of the United States, requires less water and fertilizer, and can be grown on marginal land. Elizabeth, along with her colleagues in the Juenger group at UT, study the genetics of locally-adapted ecotypes of switchgrass that grow in different environments. In particular, their research focuses on finding genetic markers associated with high yield in certain areas so that breeders can grow more efficient grasses in these locations.