Our group aims to understand evolutionary processes in plants, especially as they apply to underutilized crops and their wild relatives. The research takes both a basic and applied approach with the goals of advancing crop improvement, sustainable agriculture, and food security, as well as informing the conservation of plant genetic resources.


June 2015: Nyree Zerega published an OpEd “GMOs or no GMOs – Is That Really the Question?” in the Huffington Post.

June 2015:  Congratulations to Elliot Gardner, for being awarded an ISEN (Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern) grant for “ Basic science for a sustainable future: the genome of breadfruit’s wild relative.”  ($4,673)

April 2015: Congratulations to Elliot Gardner, who was awarded a 2015 National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant for “Evolutionary transitions: pollination biology and domestication of Artocarpus (Moraceae).” Elliot’s research combines phylogenomics with field experiments and morphological studies, and the grant will fund fieldwork in Sabah and Sarawak, Malaysia (Borneo) ($17,882).

March 2015: Nyree Zerega published an OpEd “Stop and Smell the Weeds” in Pacific Standard.

December 2014: Congratulations to Kristen Laricchia. She successfully defended her MS thesis” “Transcriptome analysis of domesticated breadfruit and its wild relatives.”

November 2014: Nyree Zerega published an OpEd about the role of underutilized crops in promoting food security.

November 2014: Congratulations to Maria Wang. She successfully defended her thesis:  “Diversity and origins of an underutilized tropical fruit tree, cempedak (Artocarpus integer, Moraceae), and its wild relative bangkong (Artocarpus integer var. silvestris).”

Fall 2014Elliot Gardner received honorable mention in the Science in Society Scientific Images Contest.

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August 2014: Summer undergraduate researcher Matt Murphy presented his research on the wild relative of Artocarpus odoratissimus at the NSF-REU symposium at The Field Museum of Natural History.

August 2014: Summer undergraduate SROP (Summer Research OPporunity) student Daiyon Kpou presented her research on breadfruit diversity in Vanuatu at a Northwestern University symposium.

July 2014: The following students presented their work at the Botany 2014 meeting in Boise Idaho: Elliot Gardner, Kristen Laricchia, Theresa Melhem, and Maria Wang.

June 2014: Check out one of the feature articles in the Summer issue of American Women In Science Magazine focusing on women and field research. Notes from the Field: Studying Wild and Cultivated Plants.

Spring 2014: Congratulations to Paya Sarraf on his graduation and presenting his senior thesis research at the Northwestern University Undergraduate Research Symposium!


Spring 2104: Maria Wang produces a web video about her research through the Ready, Set, Go Program. Watch it here.

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Spring 2014Elliot Gardner  receives the Botanical Society of America Graduate Student Research Award.

May 2014:  Zerega lab research (“New genomic resources to understand genetic diversity and promote crop improvement of jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus), breadfruit (A. altilis), and other under utilized Artocarpus crops.”) was presented by collaborator G. Ravikanth (ATREE) at the International Symposium on Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus ) and Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis Fosbarg) of the Tropics: Genetic Diversity, Management, Value Addition and Marketing Strategies.

May 2014: Jackfruit featured in the NPR food blog: “Here’s the scoop on jackfruit, a ginormous fruit to feed the world.”

April 2014: Jackfruit featured in The Guardian: “Jackfruit heralded as miracle food crop

March 2014Elliot Gardner is the first ever recipient of The Garden Club of America Board of Associates Centennial Pollinator Fellowship. He will receive $4,000 to study pollination in the genus Artocarpus (Moraceae) in Malaysia.

February 2014: Elliot Gardner has will receive The Dr. John N. Nicholson Fellowship from Northwestern University for the 2014-15 academic year.

December 2013Kristen Laricchia receives an ISEN (Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern) award for her MS research “Transcriptome analysis of breadfruit across a domestication gradient.”

December 2013: Congratulations to Lindsay Darling on the completion of her MS degree

Fall 2013Elliot Gardner receives honorable mention in the Science in Society Scientific Images Contest.


June 2013: Congratulations to Colby Witherup on the completion of her MS degree.

Spring 2013Theresa Melhem receives the Botanical Society of America Graduate Student Research Award.

Spring 2013Maria Wang receives the Botanical Society of America Graduate Student Research Award.

Spring 2013Elliot Gardner receives the 2013 Systematics Research Fund Award (jointly administered by the Linnean Society and the Systematics Association), the American Society of Plant Taxonomists Graduate Student Research Award, and the Torrey Botanical Society Student Training Fellowship to attend a Tropical Botany course in Florida.