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Wednesday
May 31st, 2017
7:00-8:30 PM

Kirkwood Station Brewing Co., Kirkwood, MO

Clover's Poison Pill:
Cyanide, Plants and Evolution in Your Backyard


Associate Professor of Biology

Moderated by: Cynthia Wichelman, M.D.


Since plants can't run from their predators, they've evolved a diverse array of ways to defend themselves through chemical warfare. One such chemical defense is the “cyanide bomb” or cyanogenesis, wherein plants release toxic hydrogen cyanide if they're injured. Professor Ken Olsen's lab studies cyanogenesis in clover as a model system for understanding one of the big unanswered questions in evolutionary biology: how do genetic mutations lead to adaptations in nature? Clover plants have genetic variation that determines whether not they can release cyanide. Cyanide-producing plants are abundant in warmer and drier climates but are outcompeted by acyanogenic plants in cooler climates. Since clover is abundant in lawns nationwide, the Olsen lab has recruited high school and college biology classes across the country to sample and test their local populations and compare genotype results to predictions for their climate. This “citizen science” methodology is combined with molecular genetics in lab to connect ecology and adaptations to their genetic basis and longer-term evolution.

Science On Tap highlighted on St. Louis Public Radio and Voice of America!

Science On Tap is a place where, for the price of a beverage, anyone can come to explore the latest ideas in science and technology. Meetings take place outside a traditional academic context, at the Kirkwood Station Restaurant & Brewing Co.


Meetings are held on the last Wednesday of the month during the academic year, usually from 7:00 - 8:30 PM. The standard format is as follows: about 45 minutes of presentation, followed by discussion until 8:30 PM.

Kirkwood Station Restaurant & Brewing Co.
105 E. Jefferson Ave.
Kirkwood, MO 63122
(314)966-2739

Register to receive e-mail announcements of future Science On Tap events.

Interested in learning about medicine? Check out Washington University's Mini-Medical School!

For more information: e-mail scienceontap@wustl.edu
or call (314) 935-9495

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