1. K-State home
  2. »Arts and Sciences
  3. »Division of Biology
  4. »People
  5. »Faculty
  6. »Ungerer, Mark C.

Division of Biology

Division of Biology
Kansas State University
116 Ackert Hall
Manhattan, KS 66506
785-532-6653 fax

Mark C. Ungerer, Professor

Mark Ungerer

Contact information

426 Ackert Hall
(785) 532-5845 

Lab website: http://www.k-state.edu/ungererlab


Ph.D. 2000, Indiana University.  Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Area(s) of Specialization

Evolutionary and ecological genetics in plants; genome structure and evolution.

Research Focus

We combine a variety of genetic and genomic approaches with analysis of relevant phenotypes to study ecologically and evolutionarily important variation both among and within species. Current research interests fall into three areas:

The evolution of ecologically important phenotypes:
Elucidating the molecular basis of adaptive phenotypic variation is a major aim of evolutionary biology. We're currently using several plant systems (sunflowers, wild grasses, Arabidopsis) to study the evolution of adaptive variation in freezing tolerance, drought tolerance and life history strategies.

Transposable elements and genome evolution:
The class I transposable elements known as long terminal repeat (LTR) retrotransposons are ubiquitous in plants and represent a significant genomic fraction in plant species with large genomes. We have discovered recent, large-scale proliferation events of these sequences in multiple species of the sunflower genus Helianthus. Current research is geared toward understanding genomic and environmental forces that may have triggered these proliferation events and the potential consequences of these events on genome function and plant life history characteristics.

Population genetics:
The American plains bison was a prominent feature of the North American landscape until the late 1800s when populations were decimated by overhunting. A resident bison herd of approximately 300 animals has been established at the nearby Konza Prairie Biological Station as part of a long-term study on the effects of grazing and fire on prairie ecosystems. Current work is focused on monitoring the population genetic health of this bison herd and understanding patterns of male and female mating success through molecular parentage analysis combined with observational data.

Selected Publications

Kawakami T, Darby BJ, Ungerer MC. 2014. Transcriptome resources for the perennial sunflower Helianthus maximiliani obtained from ecologically divergent populations. Molecular Ecology Resources 14: 812-819.

Ungerer MC, Kawakami T. 2013. Transcriptional dynamics of LTR retrotransposons in early generation and ancient sunflower hybrids. Genome Biol. & Evol. 5: 329-337.

Ungerer MC, Weitekamp CA, Joern A, Towne EG, Briggs JM. 2013. Genetic variation and mating success in managed American plains bison. Journal of Heredity 104: 182-191.

Kawakami T, Dhakal P, Katterhenry AN, Heatherington CA, Ungerer MC. 2011. Transposable element proliferation and genome expansion are rare in contemporary sunflower hybrid populations despite widespread transcriptional activity of LTR retrotransposons. Genome Biol Evol. 3: 156-167.

Kawakami T, Morgan TJ, Nippert JB, Ocheltree TW, Keith R, Dhakal P, Ungerer MC. 2011. Natural selection drives clinal life history patterns in the perennial sunflower species, Helianthus maximiliani. Molecular Ecology 20: 2318-2328.

Zhen Y and Ungerer MC. 2008. Relaxed selection on the CBF/DREB1 regulatory genes and reduced freezing tolerance in the southern range ofArabidopsis thaliana. Molecular Biol. & Evol. 25: 2547-2555.

Ungerer MC, Strakosh S, Zhen Y. 2006. Genome expansion in three hybrid sunflower species is associated with retrotransposon proliferation. Current Biology 16(20): r872–r873.


View the complete publication list in NCBI