University of Maine at Farmington Faculty Member Chris Brinegar Awarded Grant to Help Expand Knowledge of Coast Redwood and Giant Sequoia Forests

Chris BrinegarFARMINGTON, ME (April 11, 2012)—Chris Brinegar, adjunct associate professor of biology at the University of Maine at Farmington, has been awarded a $14,266 grant by the Save the Redwoods League, a San Francisco-based conservation organization, to fund a genetics project on two plant species in the coast redwood forests. Brinegar’s grant is part of $100,000 in research grants recently announced by the organization to fund projects that will expand scientific knowledge of the biology and ecology of coast redwood and giant sequoia forests.

According to a release by the Save the Redwoods League—the only nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to protecting ancient redwood forests throughout their natural range—this research can help answer big questions that will protect the health of people, wildlife, redwood forests and the entire planet.

Brinegar’s most recent research has shown through chloroplast DNA analysis that populations of coast redwood trees south of the San Francisco Bay are significantly less genetically diverse than their northern counterparts, presumably due to an evolutionary process called genetic drift. This new grant will allow him to determine if the population genetics of common understory plants of the redwood forest, such as Western sword fern and redwood sorrel, show a similar geographic pattern.

“Understanding the causes of genetic diversity loss in these plant species can shed light on how they have evolved and migrated over geological time,” said Brinegar. “Genetics data can also help scientists and policymakers devise long term conservation strategies for the next century when climate change may accelerate genetic drift and loss of genetic diversity by altering temperature and precipitation patterns throughout the entire redwood ecosystem.”

A retired professor and former director of the Biotechnology Education and Research Institute at San Jose State University in California, Brinegar has taught at UMF since 2006. He was awarded a Fulbright Scholar grant by the United States Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board to lecture and do genetics research at Kathmandu University in Nepal during the 2008-2009 academic year.

Brinegar received his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin and currently lives in New Portland, Maine.

Since 1918, Save the Redwoods League has protected and restored redwood forests and connected people with their peace and beauty so these wonders of the natural world flourish. Unfortunately, some ancient redwoods remain unprotected, and forests that are protected face threats from a changing environment, disease and devastating government budget cuts. To date the League has completed the purchase of more than 189,000 acres of redwood forest and associated land. For more information, please visit

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