Here is just a brief overview of some of the new and ongoing projects we are working on at A-State:

Reference-free approaches for population genomics

Following on previous work, the lab is continuing a special focus on coevolutionary genomics of the parasitic witchweed Striga hermonthica and its cereal hosts, which include sorghum, rice, millet, and maize. S. hermonthica is a devastating constraint to food security across much of Africa, and we are leveraging ecological and evolutionary genomic perspectives to help inform sorghum breeding and weed management in smallholder farming systems. The lab is exploring development of new bioinformatic approaches to help characterize population variation 'beyond SNPs' in large and complex plant genomes. Funding: USAID PEER (PI: Steven Runo, USG-supported partner: Emily Bellis)

Machine learning for genomic prediction and gene-environment association mapping

We are also working on approaches for improved understanding and prediction of plant-environment interactions, through integration of machine learning and evolutionary genomic modeling frameworks.

Temporal dynamics of soil microbiome communities

As part of the Arkansas Tallgrass Prairie Collaborative, we are contributing to a study focused on understanding changes in soil microbe communities and impacts on competition dynamics. Funding: Arkansas INBRE.


R.M. Gutaker, S.C. Groen, E.S. Bellis, J.Y. Choi, I.S. Pires, R.K. Bocinsky, E. Slayton, O. Wilkins, C.C. Castillo, S. Negrão, M.M. Oliveira, D.Q. Fuller, J.A. d’Alpoim Guedes, J.R. Lasky, and M.D. Purugganan. (In press). Genomic history and ecology of the geographic spread of rice. Nature Plants. bioRxiv

E.S. Bellis, E.A. Kelly, C.M. Lorts, H. Gao, V.L. DeLeo, G. Rouhan, A. Budden, G.B. Bhaskara, Z. Hu, R. Muscarella, M.P. Timko, B. Nebie, S.M. Runo, N.D. Chilcoat, T.E. Juenger, G.P. Morris, C.W. dePamphilis, and J.R. Lasky. (2020). Genomics of sorghum local adaptation to a parasitic plant. PNAS 117: 4243-4251. press

L. Lopez, E.S. Bellis, E. Wafula, S. Hearne, L. Honaas, P. Ralph, N. Unachukwu, C.W. dePamphilis, and J.R. Lasky. (2019). Transcriptomics of host-specific interactions in natural populations of the parasitic plant Striga hermonthica. Weed Science. 67: 397-411. doi:10.1017/wsc.2019.20

E.S. Bellis, R.B. Edlund, H.K. Berrios, H.A. Lessios, and D.R. Denver (2018). Molecular signatures of host specificity linked to habitat specialization in Exaiptasia sea anemones. Ecology and Evolution. 8: 5413-5426. doi: 10.1002/ece3.4058 data/code

E.S. Bellis and D.R. Denver (2017). Natural variation in responses to acute heat and cold stress in a sea anemone model system for coral bleaching. The Biological Bulletin 23: 168-181. doi: 10.1086/694890 data/code. Cover article

E.S. Bellis, D.K. Howe, and D.R. Denver (2016). Genome-wide polymorphism and signatures of selection in the symbiotic sea anemone Aiptasia. BMC Genomics 17: 160. doi: 10.1186/s12864-016-2488-6 data

W.S. Philips, A.L Coleman-Hulbert, E.S. Weiss, D.K. Howe, S. Ping, R.I. Wernick, S. Estes, and D.R. Denver (2015). Selfish mitochondrial DNA proliferates and diversifies in small, but not large, experimental populations of Caenorhabditis briggsae. Genome Biology and Evolution 7: 2023-2037. doi: 10.1093/gbe/evv116

A. Emblem, S. Okkenhaug, E.S. Weiss, D.R. Denver, B.O. Karlsen, T. Moum, S.D. Johansen (2014). Sea anemones possess dynamic mitogenome structures. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 75: 184-193. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2014.02.016


M. Staton, C. Addo-Quaye, [and 29 others including E.S. Bellis]. (Submitted). The Chinese chestnut genome: a reference for species restoration. bioRxiv

W. Zhou, E.S. Bellis, J. Stubblefield, J. Causey, J. Qualls, K. Walker, and X. Huang. (Submitted). Minor QTLs mining through combination of GWAS and machine learning feature selection.

Emily Bellis, Ph.D.

Emily is from Arkansas and earned a B.S. in Genetics & Biochemistry at Texas A&M University (College Station, TX) in 2010 and a Ph.D. in Integrative Biology in 2017 from Oregon State University (Corvallis, OR), working with Dee Denver. After a short postdoc on population genomics of transposable elements with Sarah Schaack at Reed College (Portland, OR), she worked with Jesse Lasky and Claude dePamphilis at Penn State (State College, PA) as an NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Biology through the National Plant Genome Initiative. She joined A-State in late 2019 as a Research Assistant Professor of Bioinformatics. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, knitting, and attempting unsuccessfully to tire out her energetic Border Collie/Aussie, Pascal.
Emily's CV

Grace Rutledge

Grace is in her freshman year at A-State majoring in Pre-Professional Biological Sciences. She is working on a project using bioinformatics to study strigolactone receptor presence-absence variation in parasitic witchweed.


We're recruiting undergraduate students and a Master's/Ph.D. student to develop new approaches for understanding genomics of interactions with environment! The lab currently focuses on domesticated and weedy plant species (e.g. sorghum, Striga hermonthica) as model systems. Please contact Emily to discuss particular research projects you might pursue in the lab to help you progress along your desired career path.


10.25.19 Emily is off to the annual Arkansas INBRE conference, in Fayetteville, AR!


You can find me in room 202 of the Arkansas Biosciences Institute on the A-State main campus in Jonesboro, or reach me by email at ebellis[at]astate[dot]edu.