Department of Biology
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JULIE ETTERSON, Associate Professor

Ph.D. 2000, University of Minnesota
B.S. 1994, University of Minnesota

B.A. 1986, School for International Training

Office: 153B SSB
Phone: 218-726-7408


The goal of my research is to understand genetic and ecological factors that influence the rate of adaptive evolution in natural plant populations. I use the tools of quantitative genetics to explore the underlying genetic architecture of populations and to elucidate patterns of natural selection. One genetic attribute of plants that may strongly influence evolutionary rates but has received little attention thus far is polyploidy, the multiplication of chromosome number, which commonly occurs in many plant taxa. It is often assumed that polyploids possess greater evolutionary potential than their diploid progenitors because: 1) organisms with many gene copies harbor greater genetic diversity which is the fundamental substrate of evolutionary change, 2) genetic redundancy creates opportunities for duplicated genes to diverge and acquire new functions without compromising the original function, and 3) gene duplication increases the number of gene interactions, some combinations of which may enhance fitness. Thus, polyploidy may allow organisms to evolve faster or in novel directions compared to their diploid progenitors. In my current research, I am directly testing this hypothesis by conducting artificial selection for drought tolerance in experimental populations of diploids and higher ploidy levels. Students in my lab are exploring various aspects of this issue including the geographic distribution of different ploidy levels and the extent of their local adaptation to climate. Other students in my lab have examined different ecological genetic questions including the impact on native populations of invasive species and genotypes using both quantitative and molecular approaches.

Selected Publications

  • Richardson, D.M, J.J. Hellmann, J. McLachlan, D.F. Sax, M.W. Schwartz, D. Ashe, J.R. Etterson, P. Gonzalez, T. Root, O. Sala, S. Schneider, D. Ashe, J. Brennan, A. Camacho, J. Rappaport Clark, R. Early, D. Fielder, J. Gill, S. Polasky, H. Safford, A. Thompson, and M. Vellend. 2009. Multidimensional evaluation of managed relocation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 106: 9721-9724
  • Galloway, L.F. and J.R. Etterson. 2009. Plasticity to canopy shade in a monocarpic herb: within- and between-generation effects. New Phytologist 182:1003-1012
  • Galloway, L.F., J.R. Etterson and J. W. McGlothlin. 2009. Contribution of direct and maternal genetic effects to life-history evolution. New Phytologist 183: 826–838.
  • Etterson, J.R. 2008. “Evolution in response to climate change.” Chuck Fox and Scott Carroll (eds). Conservation Biology: Evolution in Action. Oxford University Press. New York. pp.145-163.
  • Etterson, J.R., D.E. Delf, T.P. Craig, Y. Ando, and T. Ohgushi. 2008. Parallel patterns of clinal variation in Solidago altissima in it native range in central U.S.A. and it invasive range in Japan. Botany 86:91-97.
  • Shaw, R.G., C.J. Geyer, S. Wagenius, H.H. Hangelbroek, and J.R. Etterson. 2008. Unifying life history analyses for inference of fitness and population growth. American Naturalist 172:E35–E47.
  • Fant, J.B., R.M. Anderson, E. Sirking, J.R. Etterson, and S. Masi. 2008. Genetic structure of threatened native populations and propagules used for restoration, in a clonal species, Ammophila breviligulata (American beachgrass). Restoration Ecology. 16:594 - 603
  • Franks, S.J., J.C. Avise, W.E. Bradshaw, J.K. Conner, J.R. Etterson, S.J. Mazer, R.G. Shaw, and A.E. Weis. 2008. The resurrection initiative: storing ancestral genotypes to capture evolution in action. BioScience 58:870-873.
  • Galloway, L.F. and J.R. Etterson. 2007. Transgenerational plasticity is adaptive in the wild. Science 318:1134-1136.
  • Etterson, J.R., S.R. Keller, L.F. Galloway. 2007. Epistatic and cytonuclear interactions govern outbreeding in the autotetraploid, Campanulastrum americanum. Evolution 61:2671-2683.
  • Burgess, K.S., J.R. Etterson and L.F. Galloway. 2007. Artificial selection shifts flowering phenology and other correlated traits in an autotetraploid herb. Heredity 99:641-648.
  • Botkin, D.B., H. Saxe, M.B. Araújo, R. Betts, R. Bradshaw, T. Cedhagen, P. Chesson, M.B. Davis, T. Dawson, J.R. Etterson, D.P. Faith, S. Ferrier, A. Guisan, A. Skjoldborg Hansen, D. Hilbert, P. Kareiva, C. Loehle, C. Margules, M. New, F. Skov, M.J. Sobel, D. Stockwell, and J.C. Svenning. 2007. Forecasting the effects of global warming on biodiversity. BioScience 57:227-236.
  • Galloway, L.F. and J.R. Etterson. 2007. Inbreeding depression in an autotetraploid herb: a three cohort field study. New Phytologist 173:383-372.
  • Etterson, M.A., J.R. Etterson, and F. Cuthbert. 2007. A robust new method for analyzing community change and an example using 86 years of avian response to forest succession. Biological Conservation 138:381-389.
  • Davis, M.B., R.G. Shaw and J.R. Etterson. 2005. Evolutionary responses to climate change. Ecology. 86:1704–1714.
  • Etterson J.R. and R.G. Shaw. 2001. Constraint to adaptive evolution in response to global warming. Science 294:151-154.


  • 1012 General Biology II
  • 3601 Plant Diversity
  • 4801 Evolution
  • 5240 Ecological Genetics
  • 8012 Integrated Evolutionary Processes

Current Graduate Students

  • Matthew Jahnke
  • Laura Kavajecz
  • Ada Tse
  • Katie Winkler

Graduate Student Projects

  • Katie Winkler. Polyploidy and plant ecophysiology. (current IBS)
  • Ada Tse. Differences among ploidy levels of Soldiago altissima in their competitive ability against a common invasive species, Tanacetum vulgaris. (current IBS)
  • Kyle Snell. Endopolyploidy and plant functional response to light.
  • Tim Mcaulay. Local adaptation of Solidago altissima across the prairie-forest border in Minnesota.
  • Jessica Grochowski. Geographic distribution of Solidago altissima cytotypes and its relationship to drought.
  • Rebecca Holstrom. Implications of using non-local plant sources for native plant restoration in a threatened population of Ammophila breviligulata

Undergraduate Research

  • 2009 Ryan Hillesheim. Flowering Plasticity in Diploid and Tetraploid Solidago altissima
  • 2009 Chantal Leopold. Cytotypes of Solidago altissima differ in traits associated with male reproductive fitness.
  • 2009 Jessalyn Toldo. Phenotypic plasticity in leaf attributes of different ploidy levels of Solidago altissima
  • 2009 Jacqueline Alvar. Simulated herbivory on Tanacetum vulgaris: a test of the potential efficacy of biocontrol agents
  • 2008 Tyson Sievers. Physiological response to drought in a polyploid goldenrod. Directed Research.
  • 2007 Jessica Chatterton. The effect of inbreeding on an invasive herbaceous species.
  • 2006 Laura Jensen. Varying responses of a polyploid goldenrod to drought.
  • 2005 Daniel Delf. Overcompensation in response to deer herbivory of the nonnative species Campanula cervicaria.
  • 2005 Sarah Hurd. Phenotypic variation among populations of the nonnative bellflower species, Campanula cervicaria.
  • 2005 Jasmine Wagner. Effects of maternal herbivory of Campanula cervicaria on seed fitness.
  • 2004 Jasmine Wagner. Dispersal mechanisms and germination conditions in an invasive species, Campanula cervicaria, in northern Minnesota.
  • 2004 Kevin Prodinsky. Herbivory and its effects on parental and offspring fitness in the newly invasive species Campanula cervicaria.
  • 2003 Margo Bergstrom. Illustration of Plant Diversity Lab Manual (Biol 3601). Coadvised with John Pastor.
  • 2003 Daniel Delf. A comparison of clinal variation in Solidago altissima across a broad geographical distribution in its native range and its invasive range in Japan.
  • 2003 Sarah Foltz. Genetic divergence of populations of Campanula americana studied by hybridization.
  • 2003 Jeff Willging. Geographic distribution of Solidago altissima cytotypes across the prairie-forest border in Minnesota.
  • 2002 Missy Peshman. Mechanisms of outbreeding depression studied through among-population hybridization in Campanula americana, the American bellflower.


I enjoy camping, hiking, canoeing, botanizing, and birding with my husband, Matt Etterson, daughter, Abby, and son, Zak.

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Last modified on 09/17/13 01:59 PM
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