B.S. Conservation biology, Kent State University 2006
My dissertation research is primarily concerned with Yucca species of the Southeastern United States.
I am sampling Yucca filamentosa and Yucca aloifolia along the eastern coast of the United States in order to test hypotheses regarding their genetic structure based on what is know about their primary mode of reproduction. Yucca filamentosa is pollinated by several species of Yucca moth and is know to be primarily outcrossing. On the other hand, Yucca aloifolia is thought to reproduce mainly through asexual means - specifically the establishment of severed plant parts. I am interested in whether these contrasting modes of reproduction will be reflected in their genetic structure. Other projects include studying the potential hybrid origin of Yucca gloriosa, and a pollination ecology study.
My research employs genomic, phylogenetic and experimental analyses to investigate the genetic and ecology processes that influence diversification. Specific interests include the molecular genetics of diversification including speciation; the molecular basis of adaptation; the evolution of genome structure; genomic processes influencing gene family evolution; the evolutionary consequences of species interactions; and the coevolution of genes interacting in regulatory and developmental pathways.
Phylogenomics employs genome scale sequence data to resolve organismal relationships and investigate gene family evolution within the context of organismal relationships. Our lab uses phylogenomic approaches to explore the ecological, genetic and developmental processes that contribute to phenotypic diversification and speciation. We focus most of our attention on the evolution of reproductive characters in flowering plants. Much of our research involves phylogenetically based analyses, and we are working with collaborators to develop new empirical and analytical tools to extend the use of phylogenetic methods in comparative genomics. These tools form the foundation for comparative studies aimed at testing the degree to which characterizations of gene function and regulatory networks in model systems are applicable to other plant species.