I am a molecular geneticist who focuses on using the tools of genomics to better improve the genetic improvement of crop plants. I am involved in applying the new tools of genomics research to the technology of improving the genetic of crop plants. My research involves discovering the function of gene key for crop improvement, as well as identifying new and useful genes from the wild relatives of crop plants. I also disseminate these finding through teaching at Cornell and through worldwide travel / symposiums.
Dr. Tanksley’s laboratory is involved in three areas of research: First, identifying and isolating the key loci determining the size and shape of tomato fruit and which account for the evolutionary transition of wild plants bearing small, round berries to the large, variably shaped tomatoes associated with modern agriculture. Dr. Tanksley’s research aims to unravel the molecular and developmental processes underlying fruit development, to understand the molecular basis of quantitative trait variation and to determine whether these same genes control fruit development/evolution in other domesticated plants. They are also characterizing and cloning a locus involved in the control of stigma exsertion in wild and cultivated tomatoes and which was involved in the evolution of self-pollination. The second aspect of Dr. Tanksley’s work is in comparative genomics and bioinformatics. He and his group are engaged in a project to identify and sequence the majority of the genes in tomato and other nightshade crops (e.g. eggplant, pepper, petunia, potato) and to use that information to understand how the gene content and gene order is evolving in plants over long periods of time. Finally, Dr. Tanksley is developing and testing new breeding methodologies based on molecular marker technology – especially techniques directed at the identification and utilization of novel genetic variation found in the wild ancestors of crop plants.