Kenneth M. Olsen, PhD


Evolution, Ecology and Population Biology Program
Plant and Microbial Biosciences Program

  • 314-935-7013

  • 314-935-7151

  • 314-935-5125

  • 303 McDonnell Hall, Danforth Campus



  • evolution, genetics, plant biology, population genetics, molecular evolution

  • Plant evolutionary biology, molecular population genetics, genetics of adaptation, phylogeography

Research Abstract:

My research focuses on the genetic basis of evolution in plant species: how is the genetic variation that we find within a species shaped by natural selection, population history, and other evolutionary forces? One way that I look at this question is by using crop domestication as a model for rapid evolutionary change. The wealth of genetic and genomic information available for crops makes it possible to directly examine the molecular evolution of genes underlying traits that have been selected upon during domestication. In my lab we also study the evolutionary genetics of wild species. Topics of interest include the genetic basis of adaptive variation, evolutionary genomics of weedy crop relatives, and the forces affecting genome-wide patterns of linkage disequilibrium and nucleotide diversity.

Selected Publications:

See Google Scholar:


Kooyers, N.J., B.H. Bakken, M.C. Ungerer, and K.M. Olsen (2018). Freeze-induced cyanide toxicity does not maintain the cyanogenesis polymorphism in white clover (Trifolium repens L.). American Journal of Botany, in press.

Brock, J.R., A.A. Dӧnmez, M.A. Beilstein, and K.M. Olsen (2018). Phylogenetics of Camelina Crantz. (Brassicaceae) and insights on the origin of gold-of-pleasure (Camelina sativa). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 127: 834-842.

Olsen, K.M. and L.L. Small (2018). Micro- and macroevolutionary adaptation through repeated loss of a complete metabolic pathway. New Phytologist 219: 757-766.

Waselkov, K.E., A. Boleda, and K.M. Olsen (2018). A phylogeny of the genus Amaranthus (Amaranthaceae), based on several low-copy nuclear loci and chloroplast regions. Systematic Botany 43: 439-458.

Vigueira, C.C., X.-S. Qi, , B.-K. Song, L.-F. Li, A.L. Caicedo, Y. Jia, and K.M. Olsen (2017). Call of the wild rice: Oryza rufipogon shapes weedy rice evolution in Southeast Asia. Evolutionary Applications, in press.

Wright, S.J., D. Cui Zhou, A. Kuhle, and K.M. Olsen (2017). Continent-wide climatic variation drives local adaptation in North American white clover. Journal of Heredity 109: 78-89.

Li, L.-F., Y.-L. Li, Y. Jia, A.L. Caicedo, and K.M. Olsen (2017). Signatures of adaptation in the weedy rice genome. Nature Genetics 49: 811-814.

Huang, Z., N.D. Young, M. Reagon, K.E. Hyma, K.M. Olsen, Y. Jia, and A.L. Caicedo (2017). All roads lead to weediness: patterns of genomic divergence reveal extensive recurrent weedy rice origins from South Asian Oryza. Molecular Ecology, 26: 3151–3167.

Cui, Y., B.K. Song, L.-F. Li, Y.-L. Li, Z. Huang, A.L. Caicedo, Y. Jia, and K.M. Olsen (2016). Little white lies: pericarp color provides insights into the origins and evolution of Southeast Asian weedy rice. G3 6: 4105-4114.

Vigueira, C.C., L.L. Small, and K.M. Olsen (2016). Long-term balancing selection at the Phosphorus Starvation Tolerance 1 (PSTOL1) locus in wild, domesticated, and weedy rice (Oryza). BMC Plant Biology 16:101.

Hokanson, K.E., N.C. Ellstrand, A.G.O. Nixon, H.P. Kulembeka, K.M. Olsen, and A. Raybould (2016). Risk assessment of gene flow from genetically engineered virus resistant cassava to wild relatives in Africa: An expert panel report. Transgenic Research 25: 71-81.

Liu, Y., Y. Jia, D.R. Gealy, D.M. Goad, A.L. Caicedo, and K.M. Olsen (2016). Marker development for rice blast resistance gene Pi66(t) and application in the USDA rice mini-core collection. Crop Science, 56: 1001-1008.

Liu, Y., X. Qi, D.R. Gealy, K.M. Olsen, A.L. Caicedo, and Y. Jia (2015). QTL analysis for resistance to blast disease in US weedy rice. Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions 28: 834-844.

Cervantes-Alcayde, M.A., M.E. Olson, K.M. Olsen, and L.E. Eguiarte (2015). Apparent similarity, underlying homoplasy: morphology and molecular phylogeny of the North American clade of Manihot (Euphorbiaceae). American Journal of Botany 102: 520-32.

Li, L.F., B. Liu, K.M. Olsen, and J.F. Wendel (2015). Multiple rounds of ancient and recent hybridizations have occurred within the Aegilops–Triticum complex. New Phytologist 208: 11-12.

Li, L.F., B. Liu, K.M. Olsen, and J.F. Wendel (2015). A reevaluation of the homoploid hybrid origin of Aegilops tauschii, the donor of the wheat D-subgenome. New Phytologist 208: 4-8.

Qi, X.-S., Y. Liu, C.C. Vigueira, N.D. Young, A.L. Caicedo, Y. Jia, D.R. Gealy, and K.M. Olsen (2015). More than one way to evolve a weed: Parallel evolution of U.S. weedy rice through independent genetic mechanisms. Molecular Ecology 24: 3329–3344.

Liu, Y., X.S. Qi, N.D. Young, K.M. Olsen, A.L. Caicedo, and Y.L. Jia (2015). Characterization of resistance genes to rice blast fungus Magnaporthe oryzae in a "Green Revolution" rice variety. Molecular Breeding 35: 52.

Olsen, K.M., N.J. Kooyers, and L.L. Small (2014). Adaptive gains through repeated gene loss: parallel evolution of cyanogenesis polymorphisms in the genus Trifolium (Fabaceae). Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 369: 1648. PDF

Larson, G., D.R. Piperno, R. Allaby, M. Purugganan, L. Andersson et al. (2014). Current perspectives and the future of domestication studies. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111: 6139-6146.

Doust, A.N.‡, L. Lukens‡, K.M. Olsen‡, M. Mauro-Herrera, A. Meyer, and K. Rogers (2014). Beyond the single gene: how epistasis and gene-by environment effects influence crop domestication. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 111: 6178-6183.

Kooyers, N.J., L.R. Gage, A. Al-Lozi, and K.M. Olsen (2014). Aridity shapes cyanogenesis cline evolution in white clover (Trifolium repens L.). Molecular Ecology, 23: 1053-1070. doi: 10.1111/mec.12666

Kooyers, N.J. and K.M. Olsen (2013). Searching for the bull’s-eye: agents and targets of selection vary among geographically disparate cyanogenesis clines in white clover (Trifolium repens L.). Heredity 111: 495–504. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2013.71

Vigueira, C.C., W. Li, and K.M. Olsen (2013). The role of Bh4 in parallel evolution of hull color in domesticated and weedy rice. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 26: 1738-49. doi: 10.1111/jeb.12171

Olsen, K.M. and J.F. Wendel (2013). A bountiful harvest: genomic insights into crop domestication phenotypes. Annual Review of Plant Biology 64: 47–70.

Olsen, K.M., N.J. Kooyers, and L.L. Small (2013). Recurrent gene deletions and the evolution of adaptive cyanogenesis polymorphisms in white clover (Trifolium repens L.). Molecular Ecology 22: 724-738.

Vigueira, C.C., K.M. Olsen, and A.L. Caicedo. (2013). The red queen in the corn: agricultural weeds as models of rapid adaptive evolution. Heredity 110: 303-311.

Trejo, L., P. Feria, K.M. Olsen, L.E. Eguiarte, B. Arroyo, J.A. Gruhn, and M.E. Olson (2012). Poinsettia`s wild ancestor in the Mexican dry tropics: historical, genetic, and environmental evidence. American Journal of Botany 99: 1146-1157.

Olsen, K.M. (2012). One gene`s shattering effects. Nature Genetics 44: 616-617.

Kooyers, N.J. and K.M. Olsen (2012). Rapid evolution of an adaptive cyanogenesis cline in introduced North American white clover (Trifolium repens L.). Molecular Ecology 21: 2455-2468.

Last Updated: 11/10/2022 1:29:10 PM

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