Research

The central goal of my research is to examine biogeographic patterns and the evolutionary processes at multiple scales that interface to produce those patterns. Biogeographic distributions are critical for understanding past, present, and future biodiversity. They work in tandem with evolutionary, ecological, and geological processes, resulting in the variation we observe. In particular, I am interested in the continuum from continental-scale biogeography to population-level processes of divergence, and how we can use biogeographic patterns to investigate local adaptation. My research program integrates three main components: 1) examining disjunct biogeographic patterns within a phylogenetic framework, 2) investigating the population genetic and genomic processes underlying those patterns, and 3) addressing local adaptation of ecologically and economically important traits through the lens of disjunct biogeography. I draw on my research experience in plantsystematics, phylogenomics, biogeography, genomics/transcriptomics, and bioinformatics to answer these integrative evolutionary questions.

I am a postdoctoral scholar at Penn State University researching the carnivorous sundew genus, Drosera (Droseraceae, Caryophyllales). I am taking a comparative transcriptomics and comparative genomics approach to understand the evolution and expression of carnivory in Drosera capensis L.. I have designed and conducted time-course treatment experiments in trap tissue. I am combining this differential expression transcriptomic data with available genomic data to identify putative carnivory genes in Drosera and look at gene family evolution and patterns of selection across multiple carnivorous lineages within the Caryophyllales and across angiosperms. I am interested in the broad question of how genome evolution (i.e. polyploidy, gene birth/loss) has played a role in the evolution of carnivory in sundews. For more information, please visit Dr. Tanya Renner’s lab website.

My foray into genome evolution developed from a desire to take the broad patterns of trait evolution across species that I addressed in my training as a plant systematist, and delve into underlying genetic and genomic mechanisms of trait expression and evolution.

I received my Ph.D. in Botany from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where I honed my passion for plant systematics. I worked on a floristic project that leveraged the molecular phylogeny of the Wisconsin flora to study patterns of biodiversity. I also researched the evolution of the staminal lever mechanism in the sage genus, Salvia (Lamiaceae, Lamiales). This work was preceded by undergraduate research at Oberlin College on the evolution of gypsum endemism in the four o’clock family, Nyctaginaceae, in the Caryophyllales. For more information about these projects, please visit Dr. Kenneth J. Sytsma’s lab website, and Dr. Michael J. Moore’s lab website, respectively.

My Ph.D. research focused on disjunct biogeography, the subject that brings me the most joy, excitement, and sparks the questions that keep me up at night. For my dissertation, I studied three case studies of a repeated disjunct pattern in North America: Rubus parviflorus (thimbleberry, Rosaceae), Aconitum columbianum (monkshood, Ranunculaceae), and Oplopanax horridus (devil’s club, Araliaceae). Each of these plants exhibits a disjunct distribution between western North American and the Great Lakes region. For all of the plants of this distribution, I want to answer biogeographic questions that address our fundamental understanding of biodiversity: how and when did taxa become disjunct, what parallels are there (if any) among taxa, and do the distribution and ecological contexts at each locality help explain variation in taxa? I want to answer these questions through a phylogeographic lens and combine these data with studies of local adaptation and speciation.