Research

My research focuses on North American disjunct plants. Disjunct plants are those that occur in a dis-continuous geographic distribution, and I specifically study plants that have a split distribution between Western North America (think Pacific Northwest, up through Alaska) and the Great Lakes region. Some of the plants that exhibit this geographic pattern do occur in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and those are interesting case studies as potential “stepping stone” biogeographic models.

I am interested in the biogeographic history and population genetics of three representative species: thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus), monkshood (Aconitum columbianum), and devil’s club (Oplopanax horridus). I am investigating questions related to migration history (long distance dispersal, or historically widespread?), timing of population splits (pre- or post-glaciation?), and genetic diversity (lower diversity from founder effects?). I am also interested in whether the physical separation of the two regions can explain any variation (do populations from either region share the same climate and ecological niches?).

As you might guess, I am not truly an expert in a particular group of plants, even though that is the M.O. of many systematists. Instead, I am interested in larger biogeographical patterns, and I use species as case studies. That being said, I am working with others on projects regarding specific plant groups, investigating character evolution and rates of diversification. I thoroughly enjoy that work as well!

If you have any questions about my research, please feel free to send me an e-mail to talk about it!