Quantitative Geneticist in Plant Systems Biology
Dr. Wellington Muchero is a Research and Development Staff Member (Quantitative Geneticist) in the Plant Systems Biology Group in the Biosciences Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Dr. Muchero is the recipient of an DOE Early Career Award, 2017 - 2021, to study the innate host immunity which poses a fundamental challenge in the utilization of beneficial microbes for the sequestration of carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas, and its fixation into economically valuable biofuels plant feedstocks. Using Salix, a biofuels feedstock and pioneer species in the warming arctic region, this project seeks to characterize unique host-derived genetic factors that allow select microbes to successfully evade defense mechanisms and establish a functional presence in the host endosphere with no adverse effects. Output from this project will inform efforts to rationally design and engineer plant-microbe interactions for application in DOE missions.
Dr. Muchero is a Co-Principal Investigator in the DOE Bioenergy Science Center to provide genetic solutions to overcome the key constraint of cell wall recalcitrance in enabling the economic conversion of plant biomass to biofuels. His research activities include efforts to target cell-wall recalcitrance phenotypes in naturally varying populations of P. trichocarpa and interspecific mapping pedigrees to identify genes that affect lignin content, sugar release, and fermentation efficiency. Key genes have been successfully identified affecting cell wall recalcitrance using a combination of QTL and Linkage Disequilibrium (LD)-based Association Mapping.