C. Dana Nelson

Project Leader
University of Kentucky
TP Cooper Bldg., 730 Rose St.
Lexington, KY 40546-0073
Phone: 228-832-2747

Current Research

  • host-pathogen genetics, in particular the genetics of fusiform rust disease on slash and loblolly pines
  • population and quantitative genetics of the southern pines
  • DNA marker development and genome mapping
  • comparative genomics of the southern pines and related conifers


Ph.D. in Forest Genetics, 1988
University of Minnesota
M.S. in Forest Genetics, 1984
Oklahoma State University
B.S. in Forestry, 1982
Iowa State University

Professional Organizations

  • Southern Forest Tree Improvement Committee, Chair (2011—Current)

Featured Publications and Products


Research Highlights

Best Map Yet of the Pine Genome (2014)
SRS-2014-146 Southern pine plantations supply 60 percent of wood products in the United States and 18 percent worldwide. These percentages can increase with better understanding of the gene combinations that make these trees grow well. To make this happen, Forest Service and university scientists worked together to construct the most complete pine tree genetic map so far.

Early Transfer of DNA from Insects to Pines (2016)
SRS-2016-183 Repetitive DNA sequences move across species boundaries relatively often, but rarely occur between kingdoms; however, Forest Service scientists and partners have identified and characterized such a transfer between insects and conifers and determined that it occurred about 340 million years ago. They concluded that this sequence was one of the oldest transfers and the only known transfer that has occurred between animals and plants.

Frequent Fire Maintains Shortleaf Pine as a Distinct Species (2015)
SRS-2015-215 Fire effectively selects against loblolly pine genes in mixed stands of loblolly and shortleaf pines and appears to be required to maintain the integrity of shortleaf pine as a species.

Identification of Fusiform Rust Resistance Genes in loblolly Pine (2015)
SRS-2015-214 Knowledge of rust resistance genes provides tree breeders and forest managers with efficient tools for minimizing losses to fusiform rust, a fungal disease that causes millions of dollars of damage to southern pine plantations each year. Forest Service researchers are identifying protective genes and developing tests that could eventually allow managers to select resistant planting stock.

Shortleaf pine genetics, hybridization, and restoration (2017)
SRS-2017-138 Shortleaf pine is a priority species for restoration in the eastern U.S. Understanding the genetics of the species is important for restoration planning and implementation, as recent genetics work has shown increased rates of shortleaf- loblolly pine hybridization as a potential restoration issue. DNA testing of orchard and nursery stocks for hybridity can insure purer shortleaf pine planting stock to meet the needs of natural resource managers who are restoring shortleaf pine ecosystems.

The Forest Health Initiative (2011)
The Forest Health Initiative is a new government-university-industry partnership dedicated to developing workable solutions for improving forest health through the responsible development and application of biotechnology. As a test case, Forest Service researchers are collaborating with several university labs on developing blight resistant American chestnut seedlings.