Skip to main content


Current Members

Ross Whetten

Main Lab Contact & Principal Investigator

My research interests are aimed at reducing the cost of genetic marker systems suitable for forest tree breeding, and increasing the throughput so that large numbers of individuals can be genotyped. Next-generation DNA sequencing methods have the potential to provide cost-effective markers for both applied breeding programs and for population genetics studies of forest trees.
Institutional website

Lilian Matallana

Lab Manager and Research Associate

I am a plant molecular biologist and my major interest is the integration of plant physiology and molecular biology applied to agriculture and forestry including the improvement of economic and environmentally important species. The extraordinary complexity of both areas makes this an attractive challenge both as a basic biological question and for its economic implications regarding the improvement of traits of commercial interest.

William Kohlway

PhD Graduate Research Assistant

I am currently a Functional Genomics PhD student working with the Christmas Tree Genetics Program. My research is primarily on the use of molecular techniques and next-generation sequencing for identifying the underlying genetic basis of important breeding traits, such as Phytophthera root rot resistance in fir species, and its use in developing genetic markers for future breeding programs.

Past Members

John Frampton

Former Director of the Christmas Tree Genetics Program at NCSU

My interest are: Christmas Tree genetics, genetic conservation of Fraser Fir, propagation and use of clone in forest tree species, and host-pest interactions

Jose P. Jimenez

Professor at Tecnologico de Costa Rica

My research uses next-generation sequencing technologies to develop genomic resources for tree breeding and conservation of tropical timber species. I am interested in tree improvement for both productivity and climate resilience traits.

Anne Margaret Braham

Research Technician

I have a traditional forest management foundation, with a M.S. in tree improvement.  As research specialist, I provide support services by culturing tree material in our greenhouses and collecting samples and measurements from field trials and seed orchards/ clone banks.  I assist graduate students with supplies and equipment.  Related interests are dendrology, ecological assessment and naturalist.

Katherine Culatta

Information coming soon.

Martin Pettersson

PhD Graduate Research Assistant

My doctoral studies focus on forest damage. I work mainly with Phytophthora and fungal diseases in Christmas tree plantations. I started my research by investigating the diversity of Phytophthora species responsible for loss of Fraser fir Christmas trees in the Southern Appalachian Mountains of eastern USA. I have also looked at the presence of Phytophthora In and adjacent to Swedish Christmas tree plantations. While screening Swedish Christmas tree fields for diseases, I noticed top-dieback of several branch whorls and isolated Neonectria fuckeliana. Neonectria canker wounds and dieback of spruce trees were also observed in timber production forests. Currently I am investigating the pathogenicity of Neonectria fuckeliana.

Adam Festa

PhD Graduate Research Assistant

I am a current PhD student studying Functional Genomics with a co-major in Forestry & Environmental Resources. The focus of my research is on increasing selection intensity within loblolly pine breeding programs by assessing the relationship between unique patterns of family gene expression and progeny phenotypic data.

Robert Thomas

Tissue Culture Specialist

My interests revolve around developing methods to propagate plants using in vitro tissue culture techniques.  Our current method of choice for Fraser fir is called embryogenesis.  When it is successful, this technique can produce 1000’s of genetically identical plants.  There are applied uses for these trees, such as using them as planting stock for Christmas tree orchards in western North Carolina & neighboring states.  Tissues and small plants from in vitro culture can also serve basic research by providing large amounts of tissue that are easy to manipulate and study under controlled laboratory conditions.

Kelly Goode

PhD Student in the Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Genomics.

University of Georgia

Audrey Bowen

Undergraduate Research Assistant

I am an undergraduate studying Environmental Technology and Management. I have minors in Biological Science, Toxicology, and Environmental Science.  I assist with Somatic Embryogenesis tissue culture research on Fraser fir and Trojan fir. Currently conduct research on the comparison of different genotypes in terms of growth rate on gelled medium, and their ability to form cotyledonary state embryos. Additionally, I plan on going to grad school and would one day like to become an Occupational Health and Safety manager.

Sophia McNatton

Undergraduate Research Assistant

I am an undergraduate studying in genetics, with hopes of going to graduate school in public health or genomics.

Danielle Pavic

Undergraduate Research Assistant

I am a currently an undergraduate student majoring in Biological Sciences and minoring in Environmental Sciences. I hope to attend graduate school focusing on Molecular Biology or Microbiology in the near future.

Yusuf Kurt

Postdoctoral Scientist

I am from Turkey. I worked on different ongoing projects in Norway, Spain and Turkey. My research is mainly focused on population genetics of forest trees, especially Mediterranean species. I am awarded a post-doc fellowship in 2013 by The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK) to work one year at the North Carolina State University (NCSU). The post-doc fellowship research is about single nucleotide polymorphic (SNP) genotyping of open-pollinated Fraser fir families to establish full pedigrees which is known “breeding without breeding” in the literature. I now work as an assistant professor in the Molecular Biology and Genetics Department of Harran University.

Laura Townsen

Graduate Research Assistant

I am a graduate student at NC State working on my Masters degree in Forestry focusing on forest genetics. My research is part of the PINEMAP collaborative, and has the main goal of finding genetic variation in loblolly pine for adaptability to the current changing climatic variables. I will be developing cost effective DNA extraction methods and employing GBS to perform my research.

Ethan Bucholz

Masters Graduate Research Assistant

I am a Masters student in the Department of Forestry and I am looking for potential chemical differences between susceptible and resistant species of fir to the balsam woolly adelgid (BWA).

Other Past Members


Information coming soon.