Michael S Barker
Associate Professor
Associate Professor, BIO5 Institute
Primary Department
Department Affiliations
(520) 621-2213
Research Interest
Michael Barker is an evolutionary biologist studying the origins of biological diversity, particularly how abrupt genomic changes such as polyploidy, chromosomal change, and hybridization have contributed to the evolution of plant diversity. Biologists have long been fascinated by these processes because they create unique opportunities for the evolution of ecological and phenotypic novelty with the potential for relatively rapid speciation. Although assessing the importance of these abrupt changes has historically been a difficult task, advances in genomics and bioinformatics have created new opportunities for addressing these longstanding questions. By integrating new computational and evolutionary genomic tools with traditional approaches such as molecular evolution, phylogenetics, mathematical modeling, and experimental work Barker's lab currently studies 1.) the contributions of recent and ancient polyploidy to eukaryotic diversity; 2.) the evolution of chromosome number and genome organization; and 3.) the impact of hybridization on speciation and novelty.


Barker, M. S., Dlugosch, K. M., Dinh, L., Challa, R. S., Kane, N. C., King, M. G., & Rieseberg, L. H. (2010). Evopipes.net: Bioinformatic tools for ecological and evolutionary genomics. Evolutionary Bioinformatics, 2010(6), 143-149.

PMID: 21079755;PMCID: PMC2978936;Abstract:

Recent increases in the production of genomic data are yielding new opportunities and challenges for biologists. Among the chief problems posed by next-generation sequencing are assembly and analyses of these large data sets. Here we present an online server, http://EvoPipes.net, that provides access to a wide range of tools for bioinformatic analyses of genomic data oriented for ecological and evolutionary biologists. The EvoPipes.net server includes a basic tool kit for analyses of genomic data including a next-generation sequence cleaning pipeline (SnoWhite), scaffolded assembly software (SCARF), a reciprocal best-blast hit ortholog pipeline (RBH Orthologs), a pipeline for reference protein-based translation and identification of reading frame in transcriptome and genomic DNA (TransPipe), a pipeline to identify gene families and summarize the history of gene duplications (DupPipe), and a tool for developing SSRs or microsatellites from a transcriptome or genomic coding sequence collection (findSSR). EvoPipes.net also provides links to other software developed for evolutionary and ecological genomics, including chromEvol and NU-IN, as well as a forum for discussions of issues relating to genomic analyses and interpretation of results. Overall, these applications provide a basic bioinformatic tool kit that will enable ecologists and evolutionary biologists with relatively little experience and computational resources to take advantage of the opportunities provided by next-generation sequencing in their systems. © the author(s), publisher and licensee Libertas Academica Ltd.

Marques, I., Montgomery, S. A., Barker, M. S., Macfarlane, T. D., Conran, J. G., Catal{\'a}n, P., Rieseberg, L. H., Rudall, P. J., & Graham, S. W. (2015). Transcriptome-derived evidence supports recent polyploidization and a major phylogeographic division in Trithuria submersa (Hydatellaceae, Nymphaeales). New Phytologist.
Sessa, E. B., Banks, J. A., Barker, M. S., Der, J. P., Duffy, A. M., Graham, S. W., Hasebe, M., Langdale, J., Li, F., Marchant, D. B., Pryer, K. M., Rothfels, C. J., Roux, S. J., Salmi, M. L., Sigel, E. M., Soltis, D. E., Soltis, P. S., Stevenson, D. W., & Wolf, P. G. (2014). Between two fern genomes. GigaScience, 3, 15.

Ferns are the only major lineage of vascular plants not represented by a sequenced nuclear genome. This lack of genome sequence information significantly impedes our ability to understand and reconstruct genome evolution not only in ferns, but across all land plants. Azolla and Ceratopteris are ideal and complementary candidates to be the first ferns to have their nuclear genomes sequenced. They differ dramatically in genome size, life history, and habit, and thus represent the immense diversity of extant ferns. Together, this pair of genomes will facilitate myriad large-scale comparative analyses across ferns and all land plants. Here we review the unique biological characteristics of ferns and describe a number of outstanding questions in plant biology that will benefit from the addition of ferns to the set of taxa with sequenced nuclear genomes. We explain why the fern clade is pivotal for understanding genome evolution across land plants, and we provide a rationale for how knowledge of fern genomes will enable progress in research beyond the ferns themselves.

Der, J. P., Barker, M. S., Wickett, N. J., dePamphilis, C. W., & Wolf, P. G. (2011). De novo characterization of the gametophyte transcriptome in bracken fern, Pteridium aquilinum. BMC Genomics, 12.

PMID: 21303537;PMCID: PMC3042945;Abstract:

Background: Because of their phylogenetic position and unique characteristics of their biology and life cycle, ferns represent an important lineage for studying the evolution of land plants. Large and complex genomes in ferns combined with the absence of economically important species have been a barrier to the development of genomic resources. However, high throughput sequencing technologies are now being widely applied to non-model species. We leveraged the Roche 454 GS-FLX Titanium pyrosequencing platform in sequencing the gametophyte transcriptome of bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) to develop genomic resources for evolutionary studies.Results: 681,722 quality and adapter trimmed reads totaling 254 Mbp were assembled de novo into 56,256 unique sequences (i.e. unigenes) with a mean length of 547.2 bp and a total assembly size of 30.8 Mbp with an average read-depth coverage of 7.0×. We estimate that 87% of the complete transcriptome has been sequenced and that all transcripts have been tagged. 61.8% of the unigenes had blastx hits in the NCBI nr protein database, representing 22,596 unique best hits. The longest open reading frame in 52.2% of the unigenes had positive domain matches in InterProScan searches. We assigned 46.2% of the unigenes with a GO functional annotation and 16.0% with an enzyme code annotation. Enzyme codes were used to retrieve and color KEGG pathway maps. A comparative genomics approach revealed a substantial proportion of genes expressed in bracken gametophytes to be shared across the genomes of Arabidopsis, Selaginella and Physcomitrella, and identified a substantial number of potentially novel fern genes. By comparing the list of Arabidopsis genes identified by blast with a list of gametophyte-specific Arabidopsis genes taken from the literature, we identified a set of potentially conserved gametophyte specific genes. We screened unigenes for repetitive sequences to identify 548 potentially-amplifiable simple sequence repeat loci and 689 expressed transposable elements.Conclusions: This study is the first comprehensive transcriptome analysis for a fern and represents an important scientific resource for comparative evolutionary and functional genomics studies in land plants. We demonstrate the utility of high-throughput sequencing of a normalized cDNA library for de novo transcriptome characterization and gene discovery in a non-model plant. © 2011 Der et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

Qi, X., An, H., Ragsdale, A. P., Hall, T. E., Gutenkunst, R. N., Pires, J. C., & Barker, M. S. (2017). Genome wide analyses of diverse Brassica rapa cultivars reveal significant genetic structure and corroborate historical record of domestication. Molecular Ecology.
BIO5 Collaborators
Michael S Barker, Ryan N Gutenkunst