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Trinity Tobin
Undergraduate Student
SUNY Cortland
Biological Sciences
Posted 12-13-23

Trinity Tobin

Trinity holding a dragonfly while on a collections trip to Black Rock Forest, NY.


My work in Dr. Elizabeth McCarthy’s lab at SUNY Cortland revolves around flower color. I study the genus Nicotiana, which is well known for being home to a large number of allopolyploids. These allopolyploids originate from different allopolyploidization events in history, with these events creating homeolog copies in the resulting plants. When these copies aren’t expressed in equal proportions, homeolog bias occurs. My research has been on whether this homeolog bias impacts the pigment expression and resultant flower color within two Nicotiana groups (section Repandae and Nicotiana tabacum) through quantification of the homeologs’ gene expression. In addition to this, my research also includes creating and troubleshooting a droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) protocol to try and distinguish between the homeologs using a single reaction (as opposed to two).

While my current and largest body of research is in botany, I have conducted research in many different facets of biology. I was awarded an NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at the American Museum of Natural History under the tutelage of Dr. Jessica Ware, where I studied Odonate biodiversity in urban environments and the species distribution of a parasitoid Strepsiptera species Paraxenos lugubris. I have also been involved in the conception of a soil biology research project focusing on the identification of microhabitats on a plot of land owned by SUNY Cortland, with the eventual goal of creating soil monoliths and educational posts to increase scientific communication.


(Left) Trinity presenting her research at the 2023 BSA Meeting in Boise, ID. (Right) Trinity enjoying nature while on a hike at Acadia National Park. 


How Trinity got interested in the botanical sciences:

As an undergrad, I came in as an undecided major, unaware of where my academic career would take me but knowing that I wanted to use my education to help others. When I took my first introductory biology class, I knew that my goal had become to help others as a biologist. The first moment that botanical sciences really caught my eye (literally) was when I watched stomata open and close in a microscope for the first time. Seeing and really grasping just how multi-faceted and complex plants are made me want to continue to study them on a deeper level. At the end of the semester, I reached out to my professor (Dr. Elizabeth McCarthy) about research positions in her lab and began my career in undergraduate research working with Nicotiana and the flavonoid biosynthetic pathway, which I have continued to do for the past 2.5 years. My love for plants was only furthered as I became a first-time plant owner to a lovely Portulacaria afra (elephant bush) who I lovingly named Charles (he’s with me as I write this).

Throughout my time as an undergraduate, the classes that I would take would only serve to deepen my love for botany, as well as increase my love for other disciplines of science, including entomology, genetics, and ecology. Through the loving arms of my biology department, I was able to nurture my love of plants and dream of a future studying plant interactions in an effort to integrate my love for the various disciplines. As I begin the transition from undergraduate to graduate studies, my interest in botany and the natural world has remained an integral constant in my life that is fast becoming a part of who I am as a biologist and as a person.


Trinity Rock Climbing

Trinity has a variety of hobbies, including rock climbing, as seen above. 


Trinity's advice for those just starting their botanical journey:

Don't be afraid to try new things! Botany is an amazingly vast field of science that has many opportunities to study interesting and completely new organisms. Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty working on the unknown.

Trinity's other passions:

Outside of plants, I love being in the outdoors! My biggest passion is rock climbing. At my college, I have been an avid part of our rock climbing community, serving as the treasurer of our rock climbing club and volunteering as a route setter each week to keep our wall new and interesting. I also love hiking, with a particular love of waterfall hikes and babbling brooks.

My newest passion has been ceramics. I love throwing on the wheel and creating new mugs and cylinders to gift to my friends and family!


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