About The Dahlia Project

This website contains information for use in the class Dahlias in Plant Genetics, Biology 137, as well as information for people who enjoy the beauty of dahlias in general. Please feel free to look around; email or use the comment form on the contacts page to provide feedback.

Dahlia 'Kari Fruit Salad', a dark blend cactus type

Dahlias in Plant Genetics, Biology 137

Lectures will use Dahlia, Zea (corn), Petunia, Solanum (tomato), and Arabidopsis genetic examples (with cloned and sequenced genes) to introduce concepts such as:

  • allelic series
  • regulatory genes
  • genetic pathways
  • control of leaf flowering
  • gametophytic advantage
  • sporophytic incompatibility
  • cytoplasmic male sterility
  • generation of variation by transposons
  • chimeras and grafting
  • specification of flowers
  • exceptions to Mendel's laws (paramutation, imprinting, epigenetic phenomena)

The syllabus from the 2008 class follows:


Lecture Topic


April 2

Key features of the plant life cycle
Sample Problem Sets

  • How do the alternation of generation & meristems impact plant genetics?

April 4

Review of Mendel's Laws

  • Linkages
  • Indepedent assortment

April 7

Anthocyanin genes

  • What is a tester strain?
  • Complementation and non-complementation crosses.

April 9

More about testers Problem Set #1 Due

  • Genetic strategies; when is outcrossing more efficient than selfing to confirm genotype?
April 11
Discussion #1
  • Discuss methods and results of assigned paper.

April 14


  • How can genes be ordered in a pathway?

April 16

Gametophyte advantage & sporophytic incompatability
Problem Set #2 Due

  • Exceptions to Mendel's laws.
  • Failure to transmit some alleles?
April 18
Discussion #2
  • Discuss methods and results of assigned paper.

April 21

Gametophyte self- incompatibility

  • How can you pollinate a "reluctant" flower?

April 23

Cytoplasmic inheritance
Draft of Midterm Paper Due

  • Which parent transmits the organelles?
April 25
Discussion #3
  • Discuss methods and results of assigned paper.
April 28


Cytoplasmic male sterility
Midterm Paper Due

  • Collaboration between mitochondrial & nuclear genes is required for pollen function.

April 30

Clonal analysis & grafting

  • How does "information" move in the plant?
May 2
Discussion #4
  • Discuss methods and results of assigned paper.

May 5

Transposable elements

  • Rapid proliferation of somatic and heritable alleles

May 7

Problem Set #3 Due

  • Where/when are alleles from the maternal & paternal genomes differentially expressed?
May 9
Discussion #5
  • Discuss methods and results of assigned paper.

May 12


  • Allelic interactions reset gene expression

May 14

ABC model of floral form
Problem Set #4 Due

  • How does combinatorial gene action establish floral organ identity?
May 16
Discussion #6
  • Discuss methods and results of assigned paper.

May 19

Anther cell specification

  • Without a germ line, how do plants conduct meiosis?

May 21

New tools for plant genetic & molecular analysis
Problem Set #5 Due

  • Arrays, proteomics, & high throughput gene cloning.
  • Guest lecturer Dr. Dave Skibbe

May 23
May 26

Memorial Day holiday


May 28

GMO case study: Bt
Problem Set #6 Due

  • Is a green transgene better than a chemical spray to control insects?

May 30

GMO case study: nutrition

  • Golden rice, vitamin enhancement.
  • Can technology improve animal & human diets?
  • What have we learned about plant genetics that could be used to design better transgenes?
  • What could be used to monitor or control (or eliminate) transgenes already in use?

June 2
June 4

Student Reports
Final Paper Due

  • 10 minutes on a special lab project
  • Explain final paper thesis

  • Students are "tested" on these concepts by completing 6 problem sets, and are required to complete a Midterm and a Final paper on dahlia genetics or genetics generally. Students will discuss their final report on the last days of class.

  • Students and the professor meet six times to discuss a scientific paper related to the lecture topics.

  • Grading
    Problem Sets 30%
    Student Report 20%
    Midterm Paper 20%
    Final Paper 20%
    Lab Course - Examples and Questions
    Course Description of Lecture and Lab (.doc)