Johanne Brunet

Johanne Brunet

Professor; USDA-ARS & UW-Madison

646 Russell Laboratories
1630 Linden Drive
Madison, WI 53706


Ph.D. State University of New York-Stony Brook, 1990 (Ecology and Evolution)
MS McGill Unversity-Montreal, 1987 (Biology)
BS McGill University-Montreal  (Biology)

Gene flow in populations with particular emphasis on insect pollinators.

My research currently examines gene flow or the movement of genes within and among populations.  Gene flow questions are studied using a combination of genetic and ecological approaches in different systems. We are interested in how distinct pollinators vary in how they move pollen around and in how features of the landscape can influence gene flow.  One project examines how distinct insect pollinators move genes via pollen in the Rocky Mountain columbine, Aquilegia coerulea.This plant species has two major and very distinct pollinators, hawkmoths and bumble bees. Hawkmoths collect nectar, do not groom and forage at dusk while bumble bees collect pollen as they cannot reach the nectar at the bottom of the spurs, groom and forage during the day. We found that both bumble bees and hawkmoths commonly move genes via pollen between patches separated by up to150 meters but that pollen carried by bumble bees sired more seeds when they remained within a patch as opposed to moving between patches; this was not the case for hawkmoths. We also observed that hawkmoths have a greater probability of moving pollen greater distances relative to bumble bees.  We are pursuing many of the gene flow questions on a landscape level using alfalfa, Medicago sativa, because it is easier to manipulate on a large scale. We have found in alfalfa that honey bees moved pollen further than bumble bees. We also observed that plant density affected gene movement for bumble bees but not for honeybees. We are continuing gene flow work to determine how landscape features affect gene flow for distinct pollinators.

Another project has developed and used genetic markers to examine the extent of hybridization and the patterns of introgression between the native elm species, Ulmus rubra, and the invasive exotic Siberian elm, Ulmus pumila in theUnited States. We are interested in the role of hybridization and disease in the evolution of invasiveness of U. pumila in the U.S. Finally, we used cultivated and wild squash to examine some of the factors that influence the rate of spread of transgenes introgressed into wild populations. Previous research examined whether pathogens created frequency-dependent selection on their host and whether this helped maintain polymorphisms for resistance genes in host populations (using stripe rust in wheat). Earlier work looked at the evolution and maintenance of mixed mating systems in plant populations and determined some of the factors that could select for variation in floral sex allocation on inflorescences of hermaphrotidic plants.

Basic and Applied

Ento 901, Pollination Biology, Graduate Seminar, Spring 2013
Biocore301, Evolution,Ecology and Genetics, Team taught every year
Hort­ 122 Techniques in Plant Breeding, Team taught,  2009
Hort 957 Plant Breeding and Genetics Seminar  2005 and 2010
       Fall 2005         Agricultural and ecological aspects of gene flow
       Spring 2010    Pollination biology and plant breeding

NSERC Graduate Fellowship, Canadian Government
FCAR Graduate Fellowship, Quebec Government

Member of the Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics Program at UW-Madison
Executive member of the Crow Institute for the study of Evolution, UW-Madison
Affiliate with the department of Botany

Zero-time faculty with the Department of Integrative Biology, UW-Madison

Professional Societies:

Botanical Society of America
Society for the Study of Evolution
Ecological Society of America
Entomological Society of America

  • Brunet, J., Y. Zhao and M.K. Clayton. 2019. Linking the foraging behavior of three bee species to pollen dispersal and gene flow. PLoS ONE 14(2): e0212561.
  • Dieterich Mabin M., F. Palmeira and J. Brunet. 2019. A modified seedling phenotypic assay to identify glyphosate resistance in different alalfa varieties. Proceedings for the 2019 Winter Seed School Conference, WASGA, January 27-29, New Orleans, Louisiana pps 34- 45.
  • Brunet, J., R. Ziobro, J. Osvatic and M.K. Clayton. 2019. The effects of time, temperature and plant variety on pollen viability and its implications for gene flow risk. Plant Biology. First published: 17 January 2019
  • Minahan, D.F. and J. Brunet. 2018. Strong interspecific differences in foraging activity observed between honey bees and bumble bees using miniaturized radio frequency identification (RFID). Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.
  • Brunet J. 2018. A conceptual framework that links pollinator foraging behavior to gene flow. Proceedings for the 2018 Winter Seed School Conference, Western Alfalfa Seed Growers Association pps. 63-67. San Antonio, Texas.
  • Buzzing and Blooming: Bee-Flower Interactions in Crop Production.
  • Bauer A.A., M.K. Clayton and J. Brunet. 2017. Floral traits influencing plant attractiveness to three bee species: Consequences for plant reproductive success. American Journal of Botany 104(5): 1-10.
  • Heidi Hirsch, Johanne Brunet, Juan E. Zalapa, Henrik von Wehrden, Matthias Hartmann, Brandon Schlautman, Evsey Kosman, Karsten Wesche, Daniel Renison & Isabell Hensen. 2017. Intra- and interspecific hybridization in invasive Siberian elm. Biological Invasions. doi:10.1007/s10530-017-1404-6.
  • Brunet J. and Z. Syed. 2017. Enhancing pollination by attracting and retaining leafcutting bees (Megachile rotundata) in alfalfa seed-production fields. Proceedings for the 2017 Winter Seed School Conference– Western Alfalfa Seed Growers Association : 67-73.
  • Van Etten M. and J. Brunet. 2017. Using population matrix models to reduce the spread of wild carrot. Acta Horticulturae. DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2017.1153.40.
  • Brunet J., J.E. Zalapa and R.P. Guries. 2016. Conservation of genetic diversity in Slippery elm (Ulmus rubra) in Wisconsin despite the devastating impact of Dutch elm disease. Conservation Genetics 17: 1001-1010. DOI 10.1007/s10592-016-0838-1
  • Brunet, J., M. Thairu, J. Henss, R. Link and J. Kluever 2015. The effects of flower, floral display and reward sizes on bumble bee foraging behavior when pollen is the reward and plants are dichogamous. Int J Plant Sciences 176: 811-819.
  • Heathcliffe Riday, Peter Raisen, John Raasch, Emmanuel Santa-Martinez and Johanne Brunet. 2015. Selfing rate in an alfalfa seed production field pollinated with alfalfa leaf cutter bees. Crop Science 55: 1087- 1095.  doi: 10.2135/cropsci2014.04.0295; Posted 7 Jan. 2015.
  • Margaret Thairu and Johanne Brunet. 2015.The role of pollinators in maintaining variation in flower colour in the Rocky Mountain columbine, Aquilegia coerulea. Annals of Botany 115: 971-979.
  • Brandon Schlautman, Vera Pfeiffer, Juan Zalapa, and Johanne Brunet. 2014. The use of sequence-based SSR mining for the development of a vast collection of microsatellites in Aquilegia formosa. American Journal of Plant Sciences 5: 2402-2412
  • J. Brunet, A. Santini and J. E. Zalapa. 2013. Patterns of Hybridization and introgression between the exotic Siberian elm, Ulmus pumila, and the native Field elm, U. minor in Italy.  Biological Invasions (in press).
  • M. Van Etten and J. Brunet. 2013. The impact of global warming on floral traits that affect the selfing rate in a high-altitude plant.  International Journal of Plant Sciences (in press).
  • Iorizzo, M., D. Senalik, S. Ellison, D. Grzebelus, P. Cavagnaro, C.  Allender, J. Brunet, D. Spooner, A. Van Deynze and P. Simon. 2013. Genetic structure and domestication of carrot (Daucus carota subsp. sativus L.) (Apiaceae).  American Journal of Botany (in press).
  • Soza, V., J. Brunet, A. Liston, P. Smith and V. Di Stilio. 2012. Phylogenetic  insights into the correlates of dioecy in meadow-rues (Thalictrum, Ranunculaceae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 63: 180- 192.
  • Brunet, J. and Z. Larson-Rabin. 2012. The response of flowering time to global warming in an alpine plant: the impact of genetics and the environment.  Botany 90: 319-326.
  • Brunet, J., Z. Larson-Rabin and C.S. Stewart. 2012. The distribution of genetic diversity within and among Aquilegia populations: the role of gene flow, pollinators, and mating system.  International Journal of Plant Sciences 173: 484-494.
  • Brunet, J. and C. Stewart. 2010. Effect of plant density and pollinator type on flower tripping and potential for gene flow in alfalfa. Psyche: A Journal of Entomology volume 2010, Article ID 201858, doi: 10.1155/2010/201858. Special issue on Foraging Biology of Neglected Social Pollinators.
  • Zalapa, J.E., J. Brunet and R.P. Guries. 2010. The extent of hybridization and its impact on the genetic diversity and population structure of an invasive tree, Ulmus pumila (Ulmaceae). Evolutionary Applications 3: 157-168.
    Special Issue on Invasion Biology.
  • Brunet, J. and K.G.A. Holmquist. 2009. The influence of distinct pollinators on female and male reproductive success in the Rocky Mountain columbine. Molecular Ecology 18: 3745- 3758.
  • Brunet, J. 2009. Pollinators of the Rocky mountain columbine: temporal variation, functional pollinator groups and associations with floral traits. Annals of Botany 103: 1567-1578. Special Issue on Plant-Pollinator Interactions
  • Zalapa, J. E., J. Brunet and R. P. Guries.  2009. Patterns of hybridization and introgression between invasive Ulmus pumila (Ulmaceae) and native U. rubra. American Journal of Botany 96: 1116- 1128.
  • Zalapa, J. E., J. Brunetand R. P. Guries. 2008. Genetic Characterization and Diversity in Dutch Elm Disease-Tolerant Ulmus pumila L. germplasm from China. Genome 51: 1-9.
  • Zalapa, J. E., J. Brunet and R. P. Guries. 2008. Isolation and characterization of microsatellite markers for red elm (Ulmus rubra Muhl.) and cross-species amplification with Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila L.) Molecular Ecology Resources 8: 109-112.
  • Mundt, C. C., J. Brunet, and K. E. Sackett. 2008.  Impact of density and disease on frequency-dependent selection and maintenance of genetic polymorphism: experiments with stripe rust and wheat. Evolutionary Ecology 22: 637-657.
  • Brunet, J.and H. Sweet. 2006. Impact of insect pollinator group and floral display size on outcrossing rate. Evolution 60: 234-246.
  • Brunet, J.and H. Sweet. 2006. The maintenance of selfing in a population of the rocky mountain columbine. International Journal of Plant Sciences 167: 213-219.
  • Brunet, J., A. Liston, J.S. Miller and D.L. Venable. 2001. Polyploidy and gender dimorphism. Science 291: 1441.
  • Brunet, J. and C.C. Mundt 2000. Effects of competition on resistance gene polymorphism in a plant/pathogen system. Heredity85: 393-400.
  • Brunet, J. and C.C. Mundt 2000. Combined effects of disease and competition on plant fitness. Canadian Journal of Botany78: 646-654.
  • Brunet, J. and C.C. Mundt. 2000. Disease, frequency-dependent selection, and genetic polymorphisms: experiments with stripe rust and wheat. Evolution 54: 406-415.
  • Brunet, J. and C. Eckert. 1998. Effects of floral morphology and display on outcrossing rate in blue columbine, Aquilegia coerulea (Ranunculaceae). Functional Ecology 12: 596- 606.
  • Brunet, J. 1996. Male reproductive success and variation inf fruit and seed set in Aquilegia coerulea (Ranunculacea). Ecology 77: 2458- 2471.
  • Brunet, J. and D. Charlesworth. 1995. Floral sex allocation in sequentially blooming plants. Evolution 49: 70-79.
  • Rigney, L., J.D. Thomson, M. Cruzan and J. Brunet. 1993. Differential success of pollen donors in a self-compatible lily.Evolution 46: 915- 924.
  • Brunet, J. Sex allocation in hermaphroditic plants. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 7: 79- 84.
  • Thomson, J.D. and J. Brunet. 1990. Hypotheses for the evolution of dioecy in seed plants. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 5: 11-16.
  • Book Chapter
    Brunet, J. 2005. Plant-Pollinator Interactions and Pollen Dispersal in ‘Fields methods in Pollination Ecology”, A. Dafni, P. Kevan and B. Husband (eds.), pps. 56- 82, Enviroquest, Cambridge, Canada.


A summary of Dr. Brunet’s research program can be found here:

Please visit the Brunet laboratory website for information about her research group: