Lorena Torres Martinez

Assistant Professor of Biology

Photo: Dr. Torres-Martinez at Big Bear Lake, California


Dr. Torres Martínez obtained her bachelor's degree from the Universidad del Valle in Cali, Colombia with a concentration in Genetics. She then worked for two years at the Tissue Collection and Molecular Biology Laboratory of the Alexander Von Humboldt Biological Resources Research Institute (IAvH) located at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT-CGIAR) at Cali. In 2010 she was accepted in the Biology graduate program at Purdue University where she obtained her PhD in Plant evolutionary ecology in 2016. She then received the Koch-Richardson Postdoctoral Teaching Fellowship at Tulane University, New Orleans where she worked for two years, and was a Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of California, Riverside for three years before joining St Mary's College.

Her research has mainly focused in understanding the ecological and evolutionary processes promoting plant adaptation to variable and extreme climate conditions. She has centered her attention in wild and endangered species for which conservation plans need to rely in a well-grounded understanding of their adaptive evolutionary potential in response to climate change. Variable climate conditions impose strong selective pressures on natural populations, resulting in the evolution of different mechanisms to withstand an unpredictable environment. Her lab will investigate three main and interconnected mechanisms that can promote evolution in variable environments. I) The maintenance of genetic variability in populations, which ultimately is the source for adaptive potential and rapid evolutionary change. II) Evolution of phenotypic plasticity, which is the ability of a single genotype to modify its phenotype depending on the environment that it experiences. III) How can symbiotic associations with the surrounding microbiota provide benefits under unexpected and stressful situations. Disentangling these eco-evolutionary dynamics will have important consequences for the establishment of conservation efforts of native flora and sustainable agricultural practices. To investigate these processes, she uses a combination of molecular and ecological manipulative experiments, accompanied with whole-genome sequencing, quantitative genetic breeding designs, and inoculation trials.

Areas of Research Specialization

  • Plant evolutionary ecology
  • Plant-microbe interactions
  • Population genomics

Areas of Teaching Specialization

  • Plant physiology
  • Genetics & Bioinformatics


  • B.S. in Biology at Universidad del Valle, Cali-Colombia, 2008
  • Ph.D. in Biological Sciences at Purdue University, 2016