Mount Vernon Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center

Plant Breeding

Photo collage of farm, people, farm equipment


Photo of Steve Jones

Stephen Jones is director of WSU Mount Vernon. He has been involved in plant breeding since 1981 and has a PhD in Genetics from University of California Davis.

Photo of Steve Lyon

Steve Lyon
As a senior scientific assistant, Steve leads the field research portion of the plant breeding group. After completing his BS in Animal Science in 1979, Steve worked as a commercial farmer in eastern WA for 12 years, producing wheat, barley, peas, lentils, alfalfa, hogs, and cattle. From 1992–1995 he worked for the WSU Hard Red Winter Wheat Program at the Dryland Research Station near Lind, WA, and from 1995–2010 he was a research technician with the WSU Winter Wheat Breeding Program in Pullman, WA. Steve completed an MS in Crop Science at WSU in 2002.

Photo of Brook Brouwer

Brook Brouwer
Brook Brouwer grew up on a small sheep farm on Lopez Island, WA. He received a B.A. in Biology from Colorado College in 2008. Recently he has worked as a farm hand on Lopez Island raising cattle, hogs, goats and poultry. His past research experience includes conducting botanical surveys, investigating riparian nitrogen dynamics, and the traditional ecological management of Camas Lilies. Fascinated by the question of how to maintain productive farms and functioning ecosystems, Brook will begin his Ph.D. research in January 2012 on low-input grain crop systems for mid- to small-scale farms.

Photo of Colin Curwen-McAdams

Colin Curwen-McAdams
Born and raised in the grasslands of the Willamette Valley just outside Corvallis, OR Colin Curwen-McAdams grew up gardening. After graduating from the University of Oregon in Environmental Science he worked in seed production, orcharding and organic farming. A love of baking, seed and agriculture brought him to Mt Vernon to work with Dr. Stephen Jones on a PhD in Plant Breeding focusing on perennial wheat and breeding for novel seed traits in wheat.

Photo of Louisa Winkler

Louisa Winkler
Louisa joined the WSU Mount Vernon Plant Breeding program in July 2013 and will be working on cereals, primarily oats and wheat, for her PhD research. Oats have dwindled to the status of a minor crop in western Washington but are increasingly of interest to the region’s mixed farms as the price of feed grain rises. Louisa will be drawing on experiences working with husked and naked winter oats in Nitrogen Use Efficiency trials to try to plug the gap in regional breeding activities. She will also be working with the Bread Lab’s Jonathan McDowell on sourdough starter cultures (leavens), attempting to understand the interrelationships between grain varietal characteristics, sourdough microbial communities and the quality of the baked loaf. This work is hoped to inform both wheat breeding work and leaven utilization. Previously, Louisa has worked with artisanal and industrial bakers on quality evaluations of wheat populations in an evolutionary breeding project. Louisa moved to Mount Vernon from the United Kingdom’s Organic Research Centre, where she was based on their field site, Wakelyns Agroforestry, managing arable and horticultural crop trials. She has also worked in commercial organic horticulture. Her undergraduate degree is in Oriental Studies (Chinese) from the University of Oxford.

Photo of Bethany Econopouly

Bethany Econopouly
Bethany Econopouly is a current PhD student at the Mount Vernon Research Center studying wheat breeding for improved nutrition and baking quality. Prior to joining WSU, Bethany worked as a Research Analyst for the Agricultural Development’s Research & Development team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She has a M.S. in Plant Breeding and Genetics from Colorado State University where she used population genetics to study the invasion history of jointed goatgrass into the western U.S. and analyzed the risk of gene flow between this agricultural weed with wheat. At CSU she also worked in a plant evolutionary ecology lab completing lab work for a comparative genomic analysis of Mimulus cardinalis populations, as well as a veterinary clinical immunology lab screening for lymphoma and leukemia using PCR and flow cytometry based assays. She received a B.S. from UMass, Amherst in microbiology. Her return to graduate studies was driven by a love for science and research and a passion for improving agricultural livelihoods and nutrition in the U.S. and abroad.

Photo of Brigid Meints

Brigid Meints
Brigid Meints grew up in Corvallis, OR and developed a love for plants at a young age. She earned a BA from Scripps College in Anthropology and Gender & Women’s Studies, but found her way back to plants after graduation when she began working for the barley breeding program at Oregon State University. She earned her MS from OSU in Crop Science with a focus in Plant Breeding & Genetics. Starting in the Fall of 2014, she began working towards a PhD under the direction of Dr. Stephen Jones. Her project focuses on breeding and trialing barley and dry beans for production in northwestern Washington.

Recent Graduates

Photo of Jeffrey Endelman

Jeffrey Endelman
Degree: PhD Crop Science, 2011
Thesis: Advances in Barley Genomics: Association analysis, Breeding values, and Consensus mapping
Current position: Postdoctoral Associate, Cornell University

Photo of Janet Matanguihan

Janet Matanguihan
Degree: PhD Crop Science, 2011
Thesis: Identification of Pathogenic Races and Microsatellite Markers ofTilletia Caries and Mapping of a Common Bunt Resistance Gene in Winter Wheat
Current position: Janet Matanguihan grew up in Los Baños, Philippines, a university town set at the foot of a volcano, teeming with hot springs and research institutes. As a child, she helped her mother with her doctoral research in entomology, feeding and dissecting moth larvae. As an adolescent, she and her younger sister trailed after their mother in various farmers’ fields and research reviews. Thus, her path was set. She obtained a BS in Agriculture from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), and her first job was at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) where she worked on rice diseases. She then went to Washington State University for her MS in Plant Pathology. After this, she joined UPLB as Assistant Professor in Plant Pathology. After several years teaching college courses, Janet went back to WSU and obtained her Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Genetics. Currently, she is a research associate working on marker-assisted selection for food and malting barley. She is also involved in the development of herbicide-resistant barley and high lysine barley through mutation breeding. Janet is also a technical editor, and has co-edited a book on quinoa with Kevin Murphy. It’s not all science and research for Janet, though. She loves to draw and write, and is interested in the confluence of science and art, method and creativity.

Photo of Karen Hills

Karen Hills
Karen has been a PhD student at WSU since 2009. Her research involves soil fertility issues affecting the quality of organic bread wheat grown in Western Washington. She is also interested in reconnecting producers, processors, and consumers in regional food systems. She grew up Alaska, but has spent time in New York and Vermont, earning a B.S. in Rural Sociology from Cornell University, an M.S. in Soil Science from the University of Vermont (UVM) and working for UVM Extension focusing on agronomy and nutrient management before starting her PhD. Karen has been fortunate to have a variety of experiences and jobs before settling into agricultural research including working at a wildlife research station in Alaska, at a sheep farm, for an organic vegetable growers cooperative, as a beekeeper, and as a volunteer technical assistant with Winrock International in Central Asia.

Photo of Lucas Patzek

Lucas Patzek
Lucas’s PhD research will focus on the selection and breeding of nitrogen-use efficient wheat varieties and the design of appropriate low-input rotation Systems around these varieties in northwestern Washington State. Wheat cultivars adapted to this region are in short supply as the breeding focus has been on the major wheat producing areas of eastern and central Washington. Many of the farms in northwestern Washington utilize organic systems, which pose different challenges in nitrogen management, so cultivars must be bred in and adapted to these systems to achieve good yields and quality. In addition to the differences in geography and climate, northwestern Washington is unique in that there exists a high risk of nitrogen movement away from farmland and into waterways. Therefore improving wheat cultivars and designing agricultural systems to minimize the loss of nitrogen from farmland is an important strategy in preserving water quality and the health of fisheries.

Photo of Caitlin Price

Caitlin Price Youngquist
Caitlin Price Youngquist is working on a PhD to study the bio-solids composting process, and application of bio-solids compost to crops in Skagit Valley. Her funding comes form the town of La Connor. Caitlin has a B.S. in Animal Science and an M.S. in Soil Science from WSU. Her M.S research looked at on-farm mortality composting methods and benefits for livestock producers around Washington State. Her project was Extension focused and allowed her to work directly with dairy and beef producers to host field trials and demonstrations. Caitlin also works as a Farm Planner for Snohomish Conservation District. Other previous experience includes working as a research assistant for Skagit County Extension, and as Ranch Manager and Summer Camp Director at Ekone Ranch in Goldendale, WA.

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