I am Ana Carolina Ballén Taborda (also known as “Carito”). I am originally from Bogotá, Colombia. My parents, my two sisters and my niece live in Colombia, and I usually travel to spend Christmas with them every year.

My interest in plants and agriculture began early in life, when I used to leave my hometown to spend vacations at my family’s farms in the guava region (Santander) and coffee region (Antioquia) in Colombia. This interest developed over the years as I realized the importance of agriculture for people’s livelihoods on a local basis and also at a regional level. In this manner, I studied biological sciences (B.Sc. in Biology) at Pontificia Javeriana University (Bogotá, Colombia). While at the university, I participated in projects mainly related to genetic diversity in tropical mammals.

My first experience working with plants started when I joined the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) during my senior undergraduate year, where I used next-generation sequencing to investigate post-transcriptional regulation in cassava by microRNAs. Then, as a research assistant for nearly five years, I was involved in bioinformatic analysis to support the rice, cassava and common bean breeding programs.

Then, in 2014 I joined the Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics at the University of Georgia (UGA) as a lab technician. Later, I was accepted into the PhD program in the same institute the following year (spring 2015) and I graduated the past December 13th (2019). As a technician and graduate student at UGA, I have worked with the peanut crop. My dissertation research focused on the use of peanut wild relatives to find resistances against the root knot nematode that challenge peanut. This research allowed us to closely define the chromosomic segments conferring resistance to nematodes in one of the peanut wild relatives, we transferred them into elite, high productive, Georgia adapted lines, and we developed 271 advanced lines. These will be subjected to different genetic analysis, in-vitro and field testing, selections and advancement for germplasm release.

During these years I have been involved in different research projects related with plant breeding, genetics and bioinformatics, and my objective is to apply the knowledge I have acquired to keep supporting the improvement of crop production, to improve food security in the developing world and to sustainably increase crop production. I look forward to the opportunities and challenges ahead of me as a researcher in the agricultural sector.

Institution/Company: University of Georgia-Athens

Career Status:
Postdoctoral Scholar

Research Areas:
Genetics, Genomics


Ballén-Taborda C, Chu C, Jackson S, Ozias-Akins P, Timper P, Holbrook C, Bertioli D, Leal-Bertioli S (2019). A new source of root-knot nematode resistance from Arachis stenosperma incorporated into allotetraploid peanut (Arachis hypogaea). Sci Rep 9:17702.

Carbajal EM, Zuleta MC, Swayzer L, Schwartz BM, Chavarro MC, Ballen-Taborda AC, Milla-Lewis SR (2019) Development of colchicine-induced tetraploid St. Augustinegrass (Stenotaphrum secundatum) lines. Plant Breed 0:1-9, doi:10.1111/pbr.12742.

Bertioli DJ, Jenkins J, Clevenger J, Dudchenko O, Gao D, Seijo G, Leal-Bertioli SCM, Ren L, Farmer AD, Pandey MK, Samoluk SS, Abernathy B, Agarwal G, Ballén-Taborda C, Cameron C, Campbell J, Chavarro C, Chitikineni A, Chu Y, Dash S, El Baidouri M, Guo B, Huang W, Kim KD, Korani W, Lanciano S, Lui CG, Mirouze M, Moretzsohn MC, Pham M, Shin JH, Shirasawa K, Sinharoy S, Sreedasyam A, Weeks NT, Zhang X, Zheng Z, Sun Z, Froenicke L, Aiden EL, Michelmore R, Varshney RK, Holbrook CC, Cannon EKS, Scheffler BE, Grimwood J, Ozias-Akins P, Cannon SB, Jackson SA, Schmutz J (2019) The genome sequence of peanut (Arachis hypogaea), a segmental allotetraploid. Nat Genet 51:877-884.

Leal-Bertioli SC, Moretzsohn MC, Roberts PA, Ballen-Taborda C, Borba TC, Valdisser PA, Vianello RP, Araujo AC, Guimaraes PM, Bertioli DJ (2016) Genetic Mapping of Resistance to Meloidogyne arenaria in Arachis stenosperma: A New Source of Nematode Resistance for Peanut. G3 (Bethesda) 6:377-390.

Duitama J, Silva A, Sanabria Y, Cruz DF, Quintero C, Ballen C, Lorieux M, Scheffler B, Farmer A, Torres E, Oard J, Tohme J (2015) Whole genome sequencing of elite rice cultivars as a comprehensive information resource for marker assisted selection. PLoS One 10:e0124617.

Leal-Bertioli SC, Cavalcante U, Gouvea EG, Ballen-Taborda C, Shirasawa K, Guimaraes PM, Jackson SA, Bertioli DJ, Moretzsohn MC (2015) Identification of QTLs for Rust Resistance in the Peanut Wild Species Arachis magna and the Development of KASP Markers for Marker-Assisted Selection. G3 (Bethesda) 5:1403-1413. The Peanut Genome Consortium and the International Peanut Genome Initiative recognized the contribution of this publication.

Fory PA, Triplett L, Ballen C, Abello JF, Duitama J, Aricapa MG, Prado GA, Correa F, Hamilton J, Leach JE, Tohme J, Mosquera GM (2014) Comparative analysis of two emerging rice seed bacterial pathogens. Phytopathology 104:436-444.

Ballen-Taborda C, Plata G, Ayling S, Rodriguez-Zapata F, Becerra Lopez-Lavalle LA, Duitama J, Tohme J (2013) Identification of Cassava MicroRNAs under Abiotic Stress. Int J Genomics 2013:857986.

Volunteer Activities

I have been involved in volunteer activities. 

1) I joined the “Skype A Scientist” to connect with k-12 classrooms students and discuss topics of plant research. So far, I have given informal talks to students in Colombia and Mexico, and plan to continue to do so; 

2) I have participated in mentoring two middle school (from Rockdale County) students on their science fair projects for national competition; 

3) I have become a member of the Graduate Research Assistants Diversifying STEM, an organization to support professional development, promote diversity and social involvement; 

In the future, I plan to participate in the Colombian science clubs (Clubes de ciencia, in spanish) to perform science workshops in STEM areas to train high school and first year’s college students to bring their interest in science and technology.

Finally, I have volunteered with the Athens Humane Society, helping to socialize and take care of the dogs and puppies, and cleaning activities at the shelter. More recently, I volunteered for the 24th annual thanksgiving dinner at Denny Towers in Athens (GA), organized by the UGA catholic center, where we were serving the senior residents with a feast of turkey and other delicious foods.

Also, I Volunteer with the Oasis Católico Santa Rafaela center, an outreach center sponsored by the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. There, we provide after-school tutoring for children from 3 years old Pre-K through third grade.

Current Affiliations
Experience & Education