Ya Yang
Office Address

1445 Gortner Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55108
United States



Associate Professor, Curator - University of Minnesota Herbarium
Plant and Microbial Biology

The Yang lab studies groups of plants with specialized adaptations such as cacti, ice plants, euphorbias, and carnivorous plants. We combine field and collection-based approaches with phylogenetics, transcriptomics, and genomics to reconstruct species relationships, detect polyploidy and reticulate evolution, and to explore genes involved in secondary metabolites, stress tolerance, and chromosome evolution.

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Research statement

The Yang Lab asks questions about the patterns and drivers of plant divergence and convergence. ​We combine field and collection-based approaches with transcriptomics and genomics to study polyploidy, reticulate evolution, and gene families involved in pigmentation, plant carnivory, and stress tolerance.

Selected publications

Brockington S.F.*, Y. Yang*, F. Gandia-Herrero, S. Covshoff, J.M. Hibberd, R.F. Sage, G.K.-S. Wong, M.J. Moore and S.A. Smith. 2016. Lineage specific gene radiations underly the evolution of novel betalain pigmentation in Caryophyllales. New Phytologist. 207(4) 1170–1180 *Co-first author.

Yang, Y., M.J. Moore, S.F. Brockington, D.E. Soltis, G.K.-S. Wong, E.J. Carpenter, Y. Zhang, L. Chen, Z.-X. Yan, Y.-L. Xie, R.F. Sage, S. Covshoff, J.M. Hibberd, M.N. Nelson, and S.A. Smith. Dissecting molecular evolution in the highly diverse plant clade Caryophyllales using transcriptome sequencing. Molecular Biology and Evolution. 32(8): 2001-2014.

Yang, Y. and S.A. Smith. 2014. Orthology inference in non-model organisms using transcriptomes and low-coverage genomes: improving accuracy and matrix occupancy for phylogenomics. Molecular Biology and Evolution. 31 (11): 3081–3092

Yang, Y., R. Riina, J.J. Morawetz, T. Haevermans, X. Aubriot and P.E. Berry. 2012. Molecular phylogenetics and classification of Euphorbia subgenus Chamaesyce: a group with high diversity in photosynthetic systems and growth forms. Taxon 61(4):764–789

Yang, Y. and P.E. Berry. 2011. Phylogenetics of the Chamaesyce clade (Euphorbia, Euphorbiaceae): reticulate evolution and long-distance dispersal in a prominent C4 lineage. American Journal of Botany 98(9):1486–1503

Education and background

2012–2016 Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
2012 Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
2005 B.S. in Biology, Peking University