Meet DEB: Judy Stone

Judy finds a big white pine. 

Name and Cluster: My name is Judy Stone and I’m excited to work with the Evolutionary Process Cluster. 

Education: University of Michigan (BF), Yale University (MSF), Stony Brook University (PhD) 

Home Institution: Colby College 

Tell us about your research:  I’ve focused on the evolution of plant mating, especially the breakdown of self-incompatibility (SI) systems, which permit recognition and rejection of self-pollen.  SI systems are subject to loss-of-function mutations, and I’m curious about the genetic and ecological circumstances that dictate the fate of such mutations.  Breakdown of SI is common across the tree of life, and it radically impacts genomes as ancestrally outcrossing species commence self-fertilization.  The breakdown of SI is also interesting as it entails a conflict between female and male function.  Whereas female function may benefit from choosiness, any mutation that expands access to fertilization by sperm should be favored.  In a nascent project, I’m seeking to discover how often male-side mutations initiate breakdown of SI in Witheringia solanacea, a tropical species with frequent breakdown of SI.  In addition to this core research focus, I’ve enjoyed side projects in conservation genetics, and I’m currently exploring phylogenetic systematics of the genus Witheringia. 

Tell us about your NSF Experience/History:  To me, the NSF represents inspiration.  I vividly remember submitting my first proposal – for a dissertation improvement grant – with my dreams and aspirations contained with that manila envelope (!).  As I’ve progressed through my career, the NSF has allowed me to develop new skills and to support dozens of students in the lab and in fieldwork in Costa Rica.  When I was a newly minted assistant professor, I was lucky enough to be invited to serve on a review panel, which is when my appreciation for the NSF truly began to flourish.  It is thrilling for me to witness the inventiveness of our community of scientists, and it’s heartening to see the care with which their ideas are considered. 

What are you looking forward to in your tenure here at NSF?  I’m excited to keep learning about the forefront of science in evolutionary biology, and I’m looking forward to working with such a wonderful collaborative team. 

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