T.A. for Plant Geography (Botany 422)
Office Hours: Thur. 11-12 noon, or by appointment
258 Birge Hall, 262-4422
My research interests stem largely from my own experiences identifying the flora of the Midwest as an undergraduate. What are the defining features of a species? How is it different from similar species growing nearby? Are these features really discrete? How do these very similar species remain distinct? Why are certain species only found in certain areas of a state or county?
I am applying some of these questions and more to my research on the genus Polemonium (Jacob’s ladder, sky pilot) which contains at least 25 species distributed throughout the northern hemisphere; two species of which occur in Wisconsin. One species also occurs in southern South America. The genus can be found in a wide variety of habitats: swamps, moist woods, tundra, mountains, and seasonally flooded washes. Many of the species are either rare or widespread, are morphologically complex, and may hybridize so I am using molecular techniques to infer not only the relationships of the species and biogeography of the genus.
I am also looking at the evolution of morphological features. Species can have tubular or open flowers and slightly or highly dissected leaflets, as well as yellow, pink, white, or blue flowers.
Lastly, I hope to examine the population structure of the Minnesota and Wisconsin endemic Polemonium occidentale ssp. lacustre. This subspecies is found at only five sites and knowledge of its genetic variability will aid in future conservation efforts.
I am also interested in the evolutionary relationships of parasitic plants and continue to hone my interest in floristics with a focus on bryophytes.