My research interest focuses on gene flow and genetic adaptation in plants within the context of anthropogenic disturbances and climate change. At Guangxi University, I plan to apply ecological genomics approaches to understand adaptation and species survival, in particular on patterns of adaptive variation in natural populations of long-lived woody plants.
I obtained my bachelor degree from the National University of Singapore (NUS), majoring in Biology and minoring in Technopreneurship, with the support of the ASEAN Undergraduate Scholarship (2009). Following my undergraduate degree, I pursued my PhD degree (completed in 2013) under the supervision of Dr Edward Webb in the Applied Plant Ecology lab in NUS, with the support of the Lee Kong Chian Graduate Scholarship. My PhD thesis focused on the genetic connectivity of four mangrove species from the Malay Peninsula. From 2014 to 2015, I was involved in two postdoctoral research positions, one in the Plant Systematics Lab in Chiba University, Japan (Apr – Jul 2014) and the other in the Biodiversity Research Group, Center for Integrative Conservation, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (Chinese Academy of Sciences) in Yunnan, China (Aug 2014 – Dec 2015).
In the early stages of my career, I took an interdisciplinary approach that focused on population genetics, but also encompassed reproductive ecology and conservation policy. My previous research interests fall into two themes, and are centered on tree species in the Indo-West Pacific region:
• Theme 1 – Drivers of landscape-level genetic connectivity (study system: mangroves in the Indo-West Pacific)
• Theme 2 – Genetic optimization of ex-situ conservation (study system: endangered tree species with recalcitrant seeds in tropical China)
Demography and physiology of forest trees in relation to environmental stress and climate change (Study system: mangroves and Dipterocarpaceae in tropical Asia)
In the coming five years, I would like to introduce a third theme into my research on the adaptive potential of trees towards environmental stress and climate change.
Broadly, I plan to apply ecological genomics approaches, to predict species adaptation and survival of long-lived woody plants based on their tolerance towards two major climatic stressors: (1) drought/water stress and (2) temperature extremes. Specifically, I plan on using NGS techniques to compare the adaptive variation among natural populations from different climate regimes, in order to determine patterns and potential mechanisms of adaptive responses.
The choice of mangrove and dipterocarp trees as study systems allows for a meaningful comparison between two of the most economically important forest tree groups. Both comprise of species found mostly in the tropics but are capable of tolerating climatic extremes in the subtropics. Furthermore, the mechanism of water stress in both systems differs substantially—mangroves are stressed by exposure to brackish water while dipterocarps are stressed by transpiration challenges resulting from their sheer height. Hence, adaptation genomics studies of mangroves and dipterocarps enables us to determine (1) the genetic variation responsible for adaptation, (2) the potential for adaptive responses to environmental change.
For each study system, I plan to adopt a multi-disciplinary approach comprising of four components: (1) a transcriptome analysis and physiological measurements of natural populations to detect natural adaptive variation (2) a common garden trial of seedlings to determine the plasticity of the adaptation, (3) a climate chamber trial of seedlings to determine the potential for future adaptation, and (4) a species distribution modeling study to predict the future distribution range under climate change scenarios.
In summary, this research enables the identification of ecological factors that influence adaptive genetic diversity. Besides shedding light on the fundamentals of adaptation, it is also the first step for the application of genetic monitoring of adaptive changes as a tool for species conservation.
Dr. Alison K.S. Wee
Plant Ecophysiology & Evolution Group
State Key Laboratory for Conservation and Utilization of Subtropical Agro-bioresources
College of Forestry, Guangxi University
Nanning, Guangxi 530005
Research overview » http://www.plant-ecophysiology-evolution.com/person/alison-kim-shan-wee/
ResearchGate » https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Alison_Wee
LinkedIn » https://cn.linkedin.com/in/alison-k-s-wee-7586a03
Guangxi University » http://www.gxu.edu.cn/english/
Plant Ecophysiology & Evolution Group » http://www.plant-ecophysiology-evolution.com/
Curriculum Vitae: Alison Kim Shan WEE_CV 2016