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James H. Leebens-Mack

Professor and Interim Curator of the University of Georgia Herbarium
Plant Biology
Miller Plant Sciences, Rm 2203, 2205
Lab Phone:
Miller Plant Sciences, Rm 2101
Office Phone:
Research Interests:

My research employs genomic, phylogenetic and experimental analyses to investigate the genetic and ecology processes that influence diversification. Specific interests include the molecular genetics of diversification including speciation; the molecular basis of adaptation; the evolution of genome structure; genomic processes influencing gene family evolution; the evolutionary consequences of species interactions; and the coevolution of genes interacting in regulatory and developmental pathways.

Phylogenomics employs genome scale sequence data to resolve organismal relationships and investigate gene family evolution within the context of organismal relationships. Our lab uses phylogenomic approaches to explore the ecological, genetic and developmental processes that contribute to phenotypic diversification and speciation. We focus most of our attention on the evolution of reproductive characters in flowering plants. Much of our research involves phylogenetically based analyses, and we are working with collaborators to develop new empirical and analytical tools to extend the use of phylogenetic methods in comparative genomics. These tools form the foundation for comparative studies aimed at testing the degree to which characterizations of gene function and regulatory networks in model systems are applicable to other plant species.


USDA Research and Extension Experiences for Undergraduates (REEU), 2018-2020  “Promoting diversity in agriscience through integrative undergraduate training and research experiences in crop genetics and genomics, Co-PI with Marin Brewer, Scott Jackson, Cecilia McGregor, Shavannor Smith, Esther van der Knaap and CJ Tsai (PI), $300,000.

DOE Joint Genome Institute Community Science Program "Open Green Genomics Initiative" (PI with 98 coPIs).  Genome sequencing, annotation and analysis of 35 undersampled lineages across the embryophyte phylogeny.

DOE Joint Genome Institute Community Science Program "Genome sequencing of closely related C3 and CAM Yucca species", (coPI with PI Karolina Heyduk), Genome sequencing and assembly service for two Yucca species with resequencing of a third.

National Science Foundation (IOS Plant Genome Research Program).  2015-2020, “ABR-PG: Developing Flowering Dogwood as a Focal Genomic Resource for Woody Ornamentals” (PI), CJ Tsai and Magdy Alabady (UGA), Jenny Xiang (North Carolina State University) and Phil Wadl (University of Tennessee), Co-PIs. $1,499,728

National Science Foundation (DEB Dimensions of Biodiversity), 2015-2020, “Dimensions: Collaborative Proposal: Molecular, ecological and evolutionary dynamics of carbon fixation and diversification in Agavoideae (Asparagaceae) and Oncidiinae (Orchidaceae)” (PI), Katia Silvera UC Riverside and Vic Albert (University of Buffalo), Co-PIs. $ 1,521,281to Leebens-Mack


Ph.D Plant Systematics and Evolutionary Biology, University of Texas 1995

Of note:
  • Among Most Highly Cited Researchers in Web of Science (Clarivate Analytics, 2018)
  • F1000Prime Faculty (F1000Prime, 2019)
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow (AAAS, 2017)
  • Valux Research Fellow (University of Copenhagen, 2015)
  • Creative Research Medal (UGA, 2016)

More of My Students

Andy Murray

Graduate Student

Yelena Pacheco

Graduate Student

Rachel Perez-Udell

Graduate Student

Piotr Tuczapski

Graduate Student, Public Relations Liaison

My Graduate Students

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