Dr. Palmer is interested in how organisms respond to the environment, from the molecular to physiological to ecological level. Her research interests and teaching at VTSU Castleton work to help students experience biology from the smallest molecules to ecosystem processes, and students are directly involved in the research in both the field and lab.
Dr. Palmer completed a B.A at Williams College in Biology, learning firsthand the benefit of doing research as an undergraduate in a range of independent research projects from biochemical assays to fluorescence imaging to nucleic acid analyses. She completed a M.S at the University of Pennsylvania in Cell and Molecular Biology investigating the dynamics of DNA packaging and modifications in human cells in response to DNA damage from environmental stressors. Continuing a focus on molecular responses to environmental stress, Dr. Palmer completed a Ph.D. in Biology at Dartmouth College studying transcriptional regulation of metal homeostasis in plants. Her work identified several proteins required for plant survival under limiting iron conditions, typical of soils around the world. As a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Davis, Dr. Palmer incorporated bioinformatics into her research to investigate natural variation in the ability of plants to respond to shade, which represents a limited food situation for these organisms. In addition, she volunteered with the Forest Service on high alpine plants, including the ancient bristlecone pine, and seed cone collection in Giant Sequoia National Park.
At Castleton, her work continues to focus on the molecular mechanisms behind organismal responses to environmental challenges. Dr. Palmer and Castleton research students work with colleagues at Dartmouth College to investigate the tolerance of Neotropical katydids to challenging diet sources as a model for human gut health through a combination of field research at the Smithsonian Institute on Barro Colorado Island in Panama and bench research on site at Castleton. Students were directly involved in the collection and processing of samples as well as the publication of a manuscript. This work was funded by the Vermont Biomedical Research Network (VBRN) and other sources.
Currently, Dr. Palmer’s research focuses on mycorrhizal communities in subarctic regions, stemming from her work as an NSF Arctic Research/Fulbright Scholar. For a year, Dr. Palmer lived and worked in Iceland with the Iceland Forest Service to establish newly forested sites and use molecular biology to better understand the fungal communities in the soil. This work is ongoing and is the current focus of her lab. Dr. Palmer is passionate about the outdoors, with a particular soft spot for trees, so this research fits both personal and professional goals and interests.