My general interests reside in developing a better understanding of the relation between structure and function associated with water movement in plants in different environments. I am particularly interested in the hydraulics of roots and leaves, the evolution and functional consequences of diversity in leaf designs, the plasticity and adaptive variation in functional traits associated with water transport across environmental gradients, and the water relations of flowers and fruits. My current research is focused on exploring the evolution of leaf form and function within Viburnum, and the relations between leaf and stem traits and environmental variables.
Broadly speaking, I try to understand why life is so diverse (by any yardstick) and why some clades are more diverse than others. Primarily, I use both phylogenetic and ecological methods to study factors affecting evolution of plant-reproductive diversity, but I am also involved in a variety of other diversity related projects. During my PhD studies, I have worked on the evolution of floral morphology in the primrose family, Primulaceae, in relation to transitions in breeding system. I am now working on uncovering ecological factors affecting diversification of inflorescences in the plant clade Portulacineae, in collaboration with Lawrence Harder (University of Calgary).
I am interested in how plants adapt to their environments and in how and why they switch between environments and evolve new adaptive strategies. What causes plants to switch from avoiding a certain habitat to becoming a specialist in that habitat? Why are some groups full of specialists in different habitats, while others are full of generalists or specialists in a single habitat? What causes certain adaptations to evolve multiple times in some groups, but not in their relatives? What were the biogeographic and ecological contexts under which these switches occurred? I am trying to answer these questions by examining patterns of DNA sequence variation within and among species. I have examined edaphic specialization in European Minuartia and ecotypic diversification in American Grindelia. I am currently looking at the evolution of photosynthetic systems in the Portulacineae, with a focus on Anacampserotaceae.
My interests include plant systematics, desert floras, and the effects of rapid environmental change on ecosystems. After working on the systematics of desert Phacelia species for my master's thesis, I am looking forward to studying the ways that phylogenetic information can help predict plant responses to climate change. I will be investigating using plant functional traits and biogeochemistry to bridge the gap between phylogenetics and studies of global climate change.
Broadly, I am interested in the evolution and convergence of complex character traits in plants (ranging from red algae to angiosperms). How does natural selection gradually modify genes and phenotypes to assemble new and fully-integrated suites of characters? What are the genetic and environmental enablers underlying the evolution of these complex character traits? How do we reconstruct these serial modifications or "steps" along an evolutionary trajectory? For my doctorate research I am investigating the evolution of Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM) photosynthesis, a complex character trait that improves the efficiency of C3 photosynthesis under conditions of drought and/or low atmospheric CO2. The Montiaceae, a family within the Portulacineae, provide a unique phylogenetic perspective into CAM photosynthesis evolution as closely related species within the lineage represent the C3 to CAM photosynthetic spectrum. Using an isotopic, anatomical, and genetic approach, I am aim to fully characterize photosynthesis type across individual species within the Montiaceae in efforts to unravel the evolutionary trajectory of CAM photosynthesis.
Pascal-Antoine Christin, post-doc (2010-2012)
Monica Arakaki, post-doc (2009-2012)
Matt Ogburn, phD student (2007-2012)
Elizabeth Spriggs, undergrad and research technician (2008-2012)
Asya Rahlin, undergrad (2011-2012)
Alejandro Brambila, undergrad (2011-2012)
Sam Schmerler, undergrad (2008-2011)
Kaya Schmandt, research tech (2008-2010)
Anne Williard, undergrad (2008-2009)
Cassidy Metcalf, undergrad (2007-2008)
research interests: Icelandic mosses; botanical illustration
research interests: Flora of Mt. Kinabalu; bananas