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Ellstrand, Norman C
Professor of Genetics & Geneticist
At age 6 Norm Ellstrand wowed his parents by accurately identifying pronghorn antelopes during a vacation to South Dakota. After receiving his B.S. in Biology at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, he was trained as a plant evolutionary geneticist, receiving a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Texas at Austin in 1978. At UCR, his research has evolved to focus on applied plant population genetics. His current research emphasis is on the consequences of gene flow from domesticated plants to their wild relatives, including the escape of engineered genes. He has published his first book on that topic. Although he secretly wants to write a novel, he has had fun doing science. He has written over 100 peer-reviewed papers, has presented his research to Congressional staff, participated in a number of activities of the National Research Council (including the recently published NRC study of environmental impacts associated with the commercialization of transgenic plants), and lived in Sweden for four months on a Fulbright Fellowship. Norm's primary undergraduate teaching effort has been "Human Heredity for Non-majors" because he believes that non-scientists should learn that science is important, interesting, and intuitive (and fun!). All of those who received a Ph.D. under his guidance are involved in science based careers in industry, the public sector, and academia. In his spare time, Norm helps create new units at UCR, two examples are UCR's Center for Conservation Biology and its nascent Biotechnology Impacts Center (of which he is Director). He is married to Dr. Tracy Kahn, Curator of UCR's Citrus Variety Collection. Their son, Nathan, a student at Riverside's Poly High School, is considering politics, law, and theme park design as possible careers.
2010 Guggenheim Fellowships
Norm Ellstrand has two interlocking research interests: (1) THE SIGNIFICANCE OF GENE FLOW AS AN EVOLUTIONARY FORCE: Gene flow is a largely neglected, but potentially important, factor in evolution. His research group has demonstrated that plant interpopulation gene flow rates were much higher than previously anticipated and that these rates vary substantially from population to population. (2) APPLIED PLANT POPULATION GENETICS. Presently, the following issues are under scrutiny in his lab: (a) gene flow and hybridization as factors in plant conservation, (b) the evolutionary consequences of spontaneous hybridization between domesticated plants and their wild relatives, (c) the evolutionary consequences of domestication, and (d) the consequences of transgene flow.
Ellstrand NC, Elam DR. 1993. Population genetic consequences of small population size: implications for plant conservation. Annual Review of Ecology & Systematics 24: 217-242