6708 PB Wageningen
Cristian Peña-Ponton MSc
I am from Ecuador, after finishing my Bachelor in Plant Biotechnology at Universidad de las Fuerzas Armadas UFA-ESPE (Ecuador), I worked part-time as plant tissue culture instructor at UFA-ESPE and part-time as teak micropropagation manager at Neoforests S.A.
Then, I discovered my passion for bioinformatics and moved to Australia where I obtained my Master's degree in Bioinformatics at the University of Melbourne. Next, I returned to Ecuador and became a lecturer of bioinformatics and plant tissue culture at UFA-ESPE.
In 2018, I started my PhD at the NIOO-KNAW in the Terrestrial Ecology Department and at the University of Wageningen in the Nematology Department. My doctoral project is part of the European Training Network EPIDIVERSE funded by the EU Horizon 2020 program under Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions.
During my PhD, I have had the opportunity to perform two secondments in Germany: Leipzig University and Philipps-Universität Marburg, where I have received training in bioinformatics, whole genome bisulfite sequencing and data integration.
In long-lived sessile organisms such as trees, phenotypic plasticity is an important requirement for successful persistence in changing or variable environments. Epigenetic mechanisms have the potential to mediate long-term plastic responses to environmental change. However, the importance of epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation as regulators of adaptive plasticity is not well known. In this project we will experimentally evaluate effects of stress exposure on DNA methylation, transposable element activity and gene expression in black poplar (Populus nigra), with the aim to (1) identify genomic loci that show stress-induced epigenetic modification with functional consequences, and (2) evaluate the temporal stability of such loci, for example across growing seasons. Making use of clonally propagated trees that have grown in contrasting environments, we will also investigate to what extent environment-induced epigenetic differences are transmitted to offspring via clonal propagation (cuttings) versus via sexual reproduction through seeds, using WGBS and epiGBS analysis. Experiments will be carried out in close interaction with other Populus nigra projects within the EpiDiverse consortium (at Marburg University, Germany and at the Institute of Applied Genomics, Udine, Italy).
We collaborate with PhD student Anupoma Niloya Troyee, Dr. Conchita Alonso and Dr. Mónica Medrano from EBD-CSIC (Sevilla, Spain) to unravel the effects of natural and artificial herbivory on the DNA methylation variation. Our plant system is the Lombardy poplar and we mainly use epiGBS and WGBS technologies.
We collaborate with PhD student Bárbara Díez Rodríguez, Dr. Lars Opgenoorth and Dr. Katrin Heer from Philipps-Universität Marburg (Marburg, Germany) to identify and integrate DNA methylation patterns induced by natural and artificial environments. Our study system involves hundreds of clonal Lombardy poplars collected from multiple European regions, and we mainly analyze WGBS, phenotypic and climate data.