Benjamin Hall, Ph.D

Ben Hall’s major current interest is to better understand speciation and evolution in genus Rhododendron. These interests encompass rhododendrons found in three regions:

  1. Malesia, where epiphytic rhododendrons of section Vireya rapidly spread from the Asian mainland across Sumatra, Borneo, and New Guinea, spawning more than 300 distinctive species.
  2. China and the Himalayas, center of diversity of Rhododendron subgenus Hymenanthes, of which 250 species are known. Both in Sino-Himalaya and Malesia, Rhododendron diversification and tectonic/volcanic mountain building are closely associated.
  3. The region between the Cascade Mountains and the Pacific Ocean: Here, R. macrophyllum (Pacific Rhododendron) and R. occidentale ( Oregon azalea) are the two most important Rhododendron species. Hall lab studies of R. macrophyllum have uncovered an amazing degree of genetic polymorphism at all loci tested. (See Outreach for a map of the R. macrophyllum population structure for one of these loci.

For more information, see this link.

Andrew Eckert
Graduate Student

Andrew did his undergraduate studies at Humboldt State University in California, where he came to know and revere the foxtail pine (Pinus balfouriana), a long-lived cousin to the bristlecone pine. In his graduate research, Andrew has used molecular markers to study the Foxtail pine populations of the southern Sierra Nevada and the Klamath Mountains, as well as relations between the two.

Andrew completed his dissertation in August 2006 and is currently a postdoc in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at UC Davis.

Amy Carlile
Graduate Student

Amy came to the UW from Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia. Following her strong interests in algae, Amy chose as her thesis project a phylogenetic study of the Ceramiaceae, a family of Red Algae with many members in the North Pacific Ocean. Collecting the specimens for her research has taken Amy up and down the Pacific Coast, Hawaii, and recently to South Korea. The major source of molecular data she has used is the sequence of RPB1, the gene for the largest Pol II subunit. Amy is jointly sponsored by Professors Benjamin Hall and Robert Waaland.

Learn more on her website.

Jie Luo
Former Graduate Student

Jie’s undergraduate degree is from Sichuan University, in Chengdu China. He enrolled at the UW after completing a mater’s degree at the Shanghai Institute of Plant Physiology. Jie’s doctoral thesis primarily deals with nuclear RNA Polymerase IV, an enzyme specific to the plant lineage. Following the Arabidopsis and Rice Genome Projects, which gave the first clues about Pol IV, Jie carried out a successful search of the genes encoding Pol IV in primitive land plants and Charophyte Algae.

For details of what he found, click here. Jie completed his thesis in April 2006 and is now a postdoc at the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle.

Loretta Goetsch
Research Scientist

Loretta Goetsch did her undergraduate and graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.  Subsequently, she carried out research for a number of years in the Department of Genetics of the University of Washington.  There her major project, with Professor Breck Byers was to understand the nature and function of the spindle pole body.  Since 2002, when she began her research in the Hall lab, Loretta has focused on molecular systematic studies of Rhododendrons. Her completed phylogeny of the genus Rhododendron was the first definitive study of the genus made using molecular data and called into question the validity of several venerable phyla based upon morphology. She is currently completing a phylogeny of Rhododendron section Vireya, using sequences of RPB1, RPB2 and several regions of the plastid genome.

Matt Hodson
Research Technologist

Matt joined the Hall Lab after receiving his undergraduate degree from the Ohio State Unviesrity. He has worked on a variety of projects over the past five years. Currently, he is looking at the phylogenetics and biogeography of Rhododendron subgenus Hymenanthes, and at the usefulness of RNA polymerase II genes for Quercus phylogenetics.


Yajuan Liu
Research Scientist

Yajuan received her PhD degree from SUNY Syracuse, working on the molecular systematics of the agaric family Cortinariaceae. Since she joined the Hall group, Yajuan has pioneered the development of RNA Polymerase II genes for phylogenetic studies of fungi. Her recent interest is in human fungal pathogens.