2018 Seminar Series - Tim Sharbel


Fixing Complex Genotypes in Plants: Evolutionary Approaches to Understanding Apomixis

by Dr. Tim Sharbel, College of Agriculture and Bioresources , University of Saskatchewan
LOCATION: Room 202, Crop Sci
DATE & TIME: Thursday, April 5, 2018 @ 10:30 AM

An organism’s choice to reproduce with or without sex has long puzzled evolutionary biologists. Apomixis, a natural form of reproduction in plants whereby seeds are produced asexually, has evolved repeatedly from sexual ancestors in many species. Apomixis is of interest on a number of levels, ranging from population genetics to evolution, but also from an applied perspective, as it represents a disruptive technology which could significantly change agricultural practices (e.g. fixing heterosis in hybrid crops). The goal of my presentation will be to describe how we go from understanding the evolution of naturally-occurring asexual plants, to identifying the genes responsible for asexuality, to applying these genes to crop plants.

Dr. Sharbel’s research group investigates apomixis (asexual plant reproduction via seeds) in natural populations, using evolutionary theory, population genetics and advanced “omics” methods, with the goal of identifying apomixis factors for agricultural improvement. Dr. Sharbel worked as a technician in an amphibian genetics laboratory at McGill University from 1987 until 1995 and simultaneously completed his BSc and MSc in evolution and biology at McGill. In 1995, he moved to the Max Planck Institute for Behavioural Physiology (Seewiesen, Germany), where he completed his PhD in Biology, studying the evolution of sex in flatworms from the Italian Alps. In 1999, Dr. Sharbel moved to the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology (Jena, Germany) to work on apomixis as a post-doc. In 2005, he began as head of the apomixis research group at the Leibniz Institute for Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK Gatersleben, Germany). On September 1, 2015, he began as the GIFS Research Chair in Seed Biology at the newly formed Global Institute for Food Security in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.