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 Linfield College
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John Syring - Associate Professor

Murdock 206


  • B.S. in Biology from University of Michigan
  • M.S. in Landscape Ecology from the University of Michigan
  • Ph.D. in Molecular Systematics from Oregon State University

Academic Interests:
My research focuses on understanding the process of speciation, the phylogeny (evolutionary family tree), and the population genetics of pines (Pinus), in particular the North American white pines. These eight species are ecologically and economically important, and each is threatened by a combination of native and/or non-native pathogens, as well as climate change. Reliable genetic markers (DNA sequence used to fingerprint individuals or populations) for these species, however, have yet to be developed. The lack of genetic markers hampers our ability to assess genetic diversity and population structure, and restricts our ability to focus conservation efforts. Aside from their ecological and economic importance, pines (with their exceptionally large genomes) provide an interesting and complex model to research phylogenetic methods and speciation patterns in the broad sense. To our benefit, recent genomics approaches have made the acquisition of unprecedentedly large data sets possible, even with limited budgets and limited lab time. These large data sets are providing the power to address questions of phylogeny and landscape genetics that were unanswerable five years ago. Work in my lab is both taking advantage of the emerging technology and developing novel techniques to acquire data to address my research questions. The results of our research are helping to reveal the evolutionary history of this important group of pines and providing genetic resources for their continued conservation. Specifically, current work in my lab includes: 1) Researching the population genetics of the threatened whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) by developing a set of microsatellite markers, 2) Exploring various species tree inference strategies to elucidate the phylogenetic history of the white pines, and 3) More recently, exploring the origins of polyploidy in strawberry (Fragaria). To address these questions I work with a large network of collaborators across the country and employ the whitebark army, a dedicated group of undergraduate researchers here at Linfield College.


DeGiorgio, M., J. Syring, A. Eckert, A. Liston, R. Cronn, D. Neale, and N. Rosenberg. An empirical evaluation of species tree inference strategies using a mulitilocus dataset from North American pines. Systematic Biology. In review.

Eckert, A., A. Bower, K. Jermstad, J. Wegrzyn, B. Knaus, J. Syring, and D. Neale. Multilocus analyses reveal little evidence for lineage wide adapative evolution within major clades of soft pines (Pinus subgenus Strobus). Molecular Ecology.

Cronn, R., B. Knaus, A. Liston, J. Maughan, M. Parks, J. Syring, and J. Udall. 2011. Targeted enrichment strategies for next-generation plant biology. American Journal of Botany 99:291-311.

Gernandt, D., A. Willyard, J. Syring, R. Cronn, A. Liston. Conifers. 2011. In: Genomics of Industrial Crops. C. Kole, ed. Science Publishers Inc., New Hampshire.

Whittall, J.B., J. Syring, M. Parks, J. Buenrostro, C. Dick, A. Liston, R. Cronn. 2010. Finding a (pine) needle in a haystack: Chloroplast genome sequence divergence in rare and widespread pines. Molecular Ecology 19:100-114. 

Liston, A., M. Parker-deFeniks, J. Syring, A. Willyard, and R. Cronn. 2007. The role of interspecific phylogeny in phylogeography: An example from sugar pine (Pinus lambertiana). Molecular Ecology 16:3926-3937.

Willyard, A., J. Syring, D. Gernandt, A. Liston, and R. Cronn. 2007. Fossil calibration of molecular divergence infers a moderate mutation rate and recent radiations for Pinus. Molecular Biology and Evolution 24:90-101.

Syring, J., R. del Castillo, R. Cronn, A. Liston. 2007. Data from multiple nuclear genes support the species status of the threatened, neotropical Pinus chiapensis. Systematic Botany 32:703-717.

Syring, J., K. Farrell, R. Businsky, A. Liston, R. Cronn. 2007. Widespread genealogical nonmonophyly in species from Pinus subgenus Strobus. Systematic Biology 56:163-181.

Syring, J., A. Willyard, R. Cronn, A. Liston. 2005. Evolutionary relationships among Pinus (Pinaceae) subsections inferred from multiple low-copy nuclear loci. American Journal of Botany 92:2086-2100.


Luay et al.; Syring is PI on subcontract. National Science Foundation Grant, “Novel Methodologies for Genome-Scale Evolutionary Analysis of Multilocus Data.” $467,429 total budget, $56,311 to Syring.

J. Syring. Student-Faculty Development Grant. $8291. Linfield College. 2011.

J. Syring. Population-level phylogenomics and comparison of two massively important subsections of pines (Pinus). Murdock College Research Program for Life Sciences. $60,163. Murdock Trust. 2010.

J. Syring. Student-Faculty Development Grant. $8291.Linfield College. 2010.

Nowacki, D, G. Hommel-Ingram, B. Seidman, J. Syring, L. Wadewitz. Canadian Studies Program Enhancement Grant (PEG). $4000. 2009.

Liston, A. and J. Syring. “Gymnosperms on the Tree of Life: Resolving the Phylogeny of Seed Plants”. $25,000. Research Opportunity Award, National Science Foundation. 2009.

J. Syring and L. Syring. “Rangewide Genetic Diversity of the Ecologically Important and Threatened Whitebark Pine (Pinus albicaulis).” $15,000. Murdock partners in science grant. 2009.

J. Syring. “Expanding Collections of the Threatened Whitebark Pine to Assess for Population Genetic Diversity”. $2000. Mazamas Research Grant. 2009.

J. Syring. “Landscape Genetic Diversity of Pinus albicaulis.” $4185. Linfield College Faculty Development Grant. 2009.

Consultant, National Science Foundation Grant DEB-0716904, “Theory of gene trees and species trees”, awarded to Dr. Noah Rosenberg. $442,000. 2007. $10,000 subcontract to cover research related expenses. 2008.


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