1390 Storrs Road, U-4163
University of Connecticut
Storrs, Connecticut 06269
Office Phone: 860-486-1878
Carol Auer conducts scholarly work on ecological risk assessment and regulation of crops with novel traits. At present, her interdisciplinary research program evaluates the potential ecological risks from genetically engineered grasses used for biofuels and other purposes. These research projects are providing new information about gene flow, pollen aerobiology, interspecific hybridization, plant species distribution, plant communities and habitat suitability models. Results from these projects are important for predictive ecological risk assessments, regulatory decisions and educational programs.
Dr. Auer also studies biotechnology policy in the U.S. and other countries. In 2012-2013, she received a Fulbright Fellowship that allowed her to conduct various teaching and outreach programs in Ecuador. Her projects at the Escuela Politécnica de Ejército and other institutions focused on improving understanding of transgenic crops, biosecurity, gene flow and risk assessment frameworks. In 2002-2003, she was the recipient of an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Risk Policy Fellowship that supported work on risk assessment and policy issues at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, DC.
Dr. Auer is a frequent speaker on the status of crop biotechnology, ecological risk assessment, and regulation. She conducts an innovative teaching program for undergraduate and graduate students in the areas of transgenic crops, plant physiology, forest ecophysiology and research ethics. She served as Chairperson of the University’s Institutional Biosafety Committee for six years and maintains an active interest in biosecurity issues.
Professional Positions and Education
Professor, University of Connecticut (2013 – present)
Associate Professor, University of Connecticut (1999 – 2013)
Assistant Professor, University of Connecticut (1993 – 1999)
Postdoctoral Research Associate, USDA-ARS, Beltsville Agric. Research Center (1991 - 1992)
Ph.D. - Department of Botany, University of Maryland
M.S. - Department of Ornamental Horticulture, University of Florida
B.S. - Department of Horticulture, University of Maryland
Professional Honors and Experiences
- Fulbright Fellowship for teaching and outreach in Ecuador. Support from the US State Department and Ecuador allowed the development of innovative projects on risk assessment, gene flow and plant biotechnology at the Escuela Politécnica de Ejército and the Ministerio del Ambiente (September, 2012 – June, 2013). Of special note was the development of the first national conference on crop-wild gene flow titled “Flujo genético en cultivos agrícolas y sus implicaciones para la bioseguridad”. This two-day conference was attended by 60 professionals in Quito, Ecuador (May, 2013).
- Sabbatical activities at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Center for Environmental Assessment, Office of Research and Development, Virginia, and the EPA Western Ecology Division, Corvallis, Oregon. Supported under contract with EPA (June-Dec. 2008).
- Recipient of an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Risk Policy Fellowship (2002-2003). Fellowship placement was in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Risk Assessment and Cost Benefit Analysis (USDA-ORACBA), Washington DC.
- Federal grant review panels for USDA (2010, 2012), EPA (2010) and NSF (2008).
- Chairperson for the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) at the University of Connecticut (2005-2011). This committee is responsible for oversight of university research involving recombinant DNA.
- Scientific consultant for law firm on crop segregation and testing (2009).
- International research project examining crop biotechnology policies and transparency in Australia (2005). Interviewed stakeholders in regulatory agencies, advisory panels, and public outreach to publish a case study on regulatory transparency.
- International Associate in the Swedish Centre for Forest Biotechnology and Chemistry (1998-2001) for research at Swedish University of Agricultural Science.
- NSF-funded international research project with scientists at the Czech Republic Academy of Sciences. The project analyzed hormone biochemistry in plant mutants resulting in two peer-reviewed publications.
Teaching Honors and Experience
- Over 20 years experience designing and conducting college courses for undergraduate and graduate students. These courses have included a wide range of topics including: transgenic crops, plant physiology, forest tree physiology, and the ethical conduct of research.
- Recipient of the “Outstanding Teacher Award” from the University of Connecticut, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Alumni Association (2006).
- Recipient of a junior faculty award for teaching and research (1995).
- Participation in various university committees responsible for improving undergraduate and graduate teaching programs.
Auer, C. 2011. Small RNAs for crop improvement: Applications and considerations for ecological risk assessments. Chapter In: Non-coding RNAs in Plants. Editors: V.A. Erdmann and J. Barciszewski. Springer Publishing. Pages 461-484.
Peer-reviewed Journal Articles
- Ahrens, CW, Meyer, TH, and CA Auer. 2014. Distribution models for Panicum virgatum (Poaceae) reveal an expanded range in present and future climate regimes in the Northeastern United States. American Journal of Botany 101:000-000 http://www.amjbot.org/cgi/doi/10.3732/ajb.1400047
- Ecker, G.I., Meyer, T. and C.A. Auer. 2013. Pollen longevity and dispersion models for switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) Crop Science 53:1120–1127 doi: 10.2135/cropsci2012.06.0382
- Ahrens, C. and C.A. Auer. 2012. Genetic relationship between cultivated and feral creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera) in a cultural landscape. Weed Science 60(4):583-588
- Ahrens, C.W. and C.A. Auer. 2012. Annual glyphosate treatments alter growth of unaffected bentgrass (Agrostis) weeds and plant community composition. PLOS One 7(12): e50643
- Ahrens, C, Ecker, G, and C. Auer. 2011. The intersection of ecological risk assessment and plant communities: an analysis of Agrostis and Panicum species in northeastern U.S. Plant Ecology DOI 10.1007/s11258-011-9936-9
- Ahrens, C, Chung, J, Meyer, T, and C Auer. 2011. Bentgrass distribution surveys and habitat suitability maps support ecological risk assessment in cultural landscapes. Weed Science 59:145-154
- Auer, C. 2011. Small RNAs for crop improvement: Applications and considerations for ecological risk assessments. Chapter In: Non-coding RNAs in Plants. Editors: V.A. Erdmann and J. Barciszewski. Springer Publishing (in press)
- Reichman, JR, Smith, BM, Londo, JP, Bollman, MA, Auer, CA, and LS Watrud. 2011. Diallelic microsatellites for diversity and population analyses of the allotetraploid creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera). Crop Science 51:1-12
- Auer, C. and R. Frederick. 2009. Crop Improvement using small RNAs: applications and predictive ecological risk assessment. Trends in Biotechnology 27:644-651
- Auer, C. 2008. Ecological risk assessment and regulation for genetically-modified ornamental plants. Critical Reviews in Plant Science 27:255-271.
- Auer, C.A. 2003. Tracking genes from seed to supermarket: Techniques and trends. Trends in Plant Science 8:591-597
- Dwivedi S., Vanková, R., Motyka, V., Herrara, C., Zizkova, E. and C. Auer. 2010. Characterization of Arabidopsis thaliana mutant ror-1 (roscovitine-resistant) and its utilization in understanding the role of cytokinin N-glucosylation pathway in plants. Plant Growth Regulation DOI 10.1007/s10725-010-9467-8
- Auer, C. 2008. Emerging scientific methods for crop improvement and their implication for ecological risk assessment. 52 pages. Report prepared for US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, National Center for Ecological Assessment.
- Jones, C., J.E. Madden, C.A. Auer. 2005. Modes of regeneration in Pelargonium x hortorum (Geraniaceae) and three closely related species. In Vitro Cellular and Developmental Biology - Plants, 41:37-46
- Zhao, Q., R. Fisher and C. Auer. 2002. Developmental phases and STM expression during Arabidopsis shoot organogenesis. Plant Growth Regulation 37:223-231
- Knapp, J.E., Kausch, A.P., Auer, C., Brand, M.H. 2001. Transformation of Rhododendron through microprojectile bombardment. Plant Cell Reports 20:749-754
- Auer, C.A. 2002. Discoveries and dilemmas concerning cytokinin metabolism. Journal of Plant Growth Regulation 21:24-31
- van der Graff, E., Auer C., Hooykaa PJJ. 2001. Altered development of Arabidopsis thaliana carrying the Agrobacterium tumefaciens ipt gene is partially due to ethylene effects. Plant Growth Regulation 34:305-315
Auer, C.A., Motyka, V., Brezinova, A., Kaminek, M. 1999. Endogenous cytokinin accumulation and cytokinin oxidase activity during shoot organogenesis of Petunia hybrida Vilm. Physiologia Plantarum 105:141-147
Mercure, E.W., Jones, C.S., Auer, C.A. and M.H. Brand. 1998. Anatomy of shoots and tumors of in vitro habituated Rhododendron ‘Montego’ cultures with tissue proliferation. American Journal of Botany 85:616-628
- Harbage, J.F, Stimart, D.P and C. Auer. 1998. pH affects 1H-indole-3-butyric acid uptake but not metabolism during the initiation phase of adventitious root induction in apple microcuttings. Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science 123:6-10
- Auer, C.A. 1997. Cytokinin conjugation: recent advances and patterns in plant evolution. Plant Growth Regulation 23:17-32
Auer, C.A. 1996. Cytokinin inhibition of Arabidopsis root growth: an examination of genotype, cytokinin activity, and N6-benzyladenine metabolism. Journal of Plant Growth Regulation 15:201-206 Auer, C.A., Cohen, J.D. 1993. Identification of a benzyl adenine disaccharide conjugate produced during shoot organogenesis in petunia leaf explants. Plant Physiology 102:541-545
Auer, C.A., Cohen, J.D., Laloue, M., Cooke, T.J. 1992. Comparison of benzyl adenine metabolism in two Petunia hybrida lines differing in shoot organogenesis. Plant Physiology 98:1035-1041
Auer, C.A., Laloue, M., Cohen, J.D., Cooke, T.J. 1992. Uptake and metabolism of benzyl adenine during shoot organogenesis in petunia leaf explants. Plant Growth Regulation 11:105-114
- Auer, C.A. and D.B. McConnell. 1984. Simulated transit vibration and silver thiosulfate applications affect ethylene production and leaf abscission of begonia and schefflera. HortScience 19:517-519
- Auer, C.A. 2009. A century of crop improvement: From Vavilov to biotechnology. BioScience 59:436-438 (Invited book review)
- Auer, C. 2008. Emerging scientific methods for crop improvement and their implication for ecological risk assessment. 52 pages. Report prepared for US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, National Center for Ecological Assessment. This report was prepared under contract with EPA.
- Biotechnology-derived perennial turf and forage grasses: Criteria for evaluation. May, 2004. Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, ISBN 1-887383-25-5. Available from http://www.cast-science.org. This report was written by a group of research and industry scientists after a workshop held in Baltimore, Maryland (2003).
- Extending the net fitness model to considerations of crop gene flow. January, 2004. Special Issue of the Information Systems for Biotechnology News Report. Available from http://www.isb.vt.edu. This report had 15 co-authors and was the result of a workshop held in Colorado Springs, Colorado (2003).
Examples of Invited Lectures (2003 - present)
- “Análisis de riesgo ecológico e investigación: Ejemplos de dos especies de gramas.” Conference on Gene flow in Crops and Implications for Biosecurity (Flujo genético en cultivos agrícolas y sus implicaciones para la bioseguridad.) Quito, Ecuador (May 7-8, 2013)
- “Plant distribution, gene flow, and the question of transgenic crops.”, Universidad Tecnologica Indoamerica, Quito, Ecuador (Dec. 3, 2012)
- “Plant distribution, gene flow and the question of transgenic crops”, Universidad Estatal de Bolivar, Forestry School, Guaranda, Ecuador. (Nov. 24, 2012)
- Two lectures at the National Course on Biosafety (Topics: Institutional Biosafety Committee in the USA, Containment of Transgenic Plants), Centro de Investigaciones Biotecnológicas del Ecuador, Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral, Guayaquil, Ecuador (Nov. 20, 2012)
- “Plant distribution, gene flow, and the question of transgenic crops.”, Guest lecture to Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador (PUCE), Department of Biology, Quito, Ecuador (Nov. 12, 2012)
- “Genetically Engineered Crops from Farm to Fork: Conversations in Connecticut.” Eastern Connecticut Agricultural Commissioners Forum, August 21, 2013
- “Crop Improvement with small RNAs: Six Questions for Ecological Risk Assessment Models.” Canadian Food Inspection Authority, Invited Risk Assessment Workshop, Feb. 2011, Ottawa, Canada (February, 2011)
- “Will the grass be greener? Research on Ecological Risk from GM Grasses for Turf and Biofuels.” US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, National Center for Ecological Assessment, Virginia (December, 2008)
- “East meets west. Molecular tools to characterize Agrostis hybrids and populations in the Eastern and Western U.S.” US Environmental Protection Agency, Western Regional Division, Corvallis, Oregon. (August, 2008)
- “Will the grass be greener? Research on Ecological Risk from GM Grasses for Turf and Biofuels.” US Department of Agriculture, Biotechnology Regulatory Services, Maryland (December, 2008)
- “Regulation and Risks of Genetically-modified Crops” Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, North Adams, Massachusetts (March, 2008)
- “Transparency in the Land of Oz” Annual Technical Symposium, Monsanto Company, Mystic, Connecticut (2007)
- “GM plants and the environment: Will the grass be greener?” Chatham College, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (2006)
- “GM plants and the environment” Department of Plant Science, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA (2006)
- “GM crops in the Land of Oz: Regulation, risk analysis and social context in Australia.”
Interdisciplinary Bioethics Project, Institute for Social and Policy Studies, Yale University (2006)
- “Regulation and Risk Assessment for GM Crops: Trends and Hot Topics in the United States” Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Canberra, Australia (October, 2005)
- “Regulation and Risk Assessment for GM Crops in the United States” University of Melbourne, Undergraduate Study Group, Melbourne, Australia (October, 2005)
- “GM crops in the land of OZ: Regulation, risk analysis and social context in Australia” Yale University, GM Crop Study Group, Institute of Social and Policy Studies (May, 2006)
- “Genetically modified plants: Weeding risks from benefits in the American landscape.” Yale Public Forum on Science, Yale University, New Haven, CT (2005)
- “Beauty from Biotech: Risk assessment and regulation of GM plants for the American landscape.” Interdisciplinary Bioethics Projects, Institute for Social and Policy Studies, Yale University, New Haven, CT (2004)
- “Environmental risk assessment and public information from USDA: A case study of Vector tobacco.” Chinese Delegation sponsored by US Trade and Development Agency, Washington D.C. (2003)
- “Enhancing ecological risk assessments: Familiarity and substantial equivalence - theory and practice.” USDA-APHIS Biotechnology Regulatory Services workshop, Greenbelt, Maryland (2003)
Examples of Abstracts for Conferences and Workshops (2005 - present)
- Ahrens, C., Meyer, T., and C. Auer. 2012. Modeling current switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) distribution in New England for ecological risk assessment. Botanical Society of America (oral presentation)
- Ahrens, C., Meyer, T., and C. Auer. 2012. Modeling current switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) distribution in New England. Connecticut Conference on Natural Resources (oral presentation)
- Ahrens, C. and C. Auer. February, 2011. Genetic relationships of feral creeping bentgrass populations to cultivated turfgrass on golf course. Botanical Society of America (poster)
- Auer, C. Crop Improvement with small RNAs: Six Questions for Ecological Risk Assessment Models. Canadian Food Inspection Authority, Invited Risk Assessment Workshop, Ottawa, Canada (oral presentation)
- Auer, C., Ecker, G, Ahrens, C., Chung, J, and T. Meyer. November, 2010. Switchgrass biogeography and pollen release in the Northeastern U.S. 11th International Symposium on Biosafety of Genetically Modified Organisms, Buenos Aires, Argentina (poster)
- Ahrens, C., G. Ecker, and C. Auer. 2010. Research on plant community assemblage for Agrostis supports ecological risk assessment for genetically engineered Agrostis stolonifera. Botanical Society of America (poster)
- Reichman, J.R., Smith, B.M., Londo, J.P., Bollman, M.A., Auer, C.A. and L.S. Watrud. 2010. Diallelic microsatellites for diversity and population analyses of the allotetraploid creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera). Botanical Society of America (oral presentation)
- Ecker, G., Ahrens, C., and C. Auer. 2010. Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) biogeographic distribution study for ecological risk assessment. Botanical Society of America (poster)
- Chung, J., Ahrens, C.A., Meyer, T. and C.A. Auer. 2010. Predicting bentgrass habitat in a cultural landscape using logistic regression, ecological factors, and GIS. Connecticut Conference on Natural Resources (oral presentation)
- Ahrens, C.A., Chung, J., Meyer, T. and C.A. Auer. 2009. Is the habitat suitable? Using geospatial information, modeling, and field surveys to predict plant distribution. International Invasive Plant Symposium: Trading problems, trading solutions., University of Connecticut (oral presentation)
- Ahrens, C.A., Chung, J., Meyer, T. and C.A. Auer. 2009. Characterizing bentgrass distribution with spatial and biological data to support ecological risk assessment in Connecticut. Ecological Society of America (oral presentation)
- Ahrens, C.A., Chung, J., Meyer, T. and C.A. Auer. 2009. Characterizing bentgrass distribution with spatial and biological data to support ecological risk assessment in Connecticut. College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Univ. of Connecticut, Graduate Student Forum (poster)
- Ecker, G. and C. Auer. 2009. Assessment of switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) gene flow and biogeography. College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Connecticut, Graduate Student Forum (poster)
- Ahrens, C.A., Chung, J., Meyer, T. and C.A. Auer. 2009. Modeling bentgrass distribution to assess ecological risk. Connecticut Conference on Natural Resources (poster)
- Ahrens, A. and C. Auer. 2008. Integration of bentgrass ecology and GIS for environmental risk assessment. Graduate Fellowship Award, University of Connecticut Center for Environmental Science and Engineering (poster)
- Auer, C. 2008. When hybrids go wrong: Assessing potential environmental risk from the release of herbicide-resistant creeping bentgrass. Botanical Society of America (poster)
- Ahrens, C.W. and C. Auer. 2008. Drought and salinity tolerance of common Agrostis species. American Society of Plant Biology, NE Regional Meeting (poster)
- Gene Flow Symposium, December, 2007, North Central Weed Science Society, St. Louis, MO (conference participant)
- Auer, C. 2007. What is Ecological Risk? A Classroom Case Study using Herbicide-resistant Creeping Bentgrass. American Society of Plant Biologists (poster)
- Ahrens, C. and C. Auer. 2006. Ecological Risk Assessment of Herbicide-resistant Creeping Bentgrass. Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group symposium (poster)
- Dwivedi, S. and C. Auer. 2006. Exploration of the cytokinin N-glucosylation pathway using the ror1 mutant. National Meeting of the American Society of Plant Biology (poster)
- Warren, D. and C. Auer. 2005. Could a gene for herbicide tolerance alter distribution and management of bentgrass populations? New England Invasive Plant Summit, Massachusetts (poster)
- Auer, C. 2005. Biogeography of bentgrasses in Connecticut. Gene Flow Symposium, Kansas City, MO (poster)
Examples of Recent Grants
- “Perennial grasses for bioenergy: Pollen aerobiology, biocontainment, and plant genetics.” USDA Biotechnology Risk Assessment Grant Program (2011-2014), Co-PI: Thomas Meyer.
- “Characterization of environmental hazards and exposure from herbicide-resistant bentgrass.” USDA Biotechnology Risk Assessment Grant Program (2007-2012), Co-PI: Thomas Meyer
- “Predicting Ecological Risk from Perennial Grasses Engineered for Biofuels and Turf.” USDA Hatch Grant (2006 – 2011)