Research Interests

Plantago Lanceolata light vs dark spikes in the fieldAs an evolutionary plant ecologist, I am interested in integrating studies of ecology, population biology, genetics, functional morphology, and physiology to examine the evolution of phenotypic plasticity in plants. The research in my lab focuses primarily on temperature-sensitive plasticity. We have shown that multiple Plantago species modify floral reflectance in response to ambient temperature during the time of floral development. In Plantago lanceolata, this plasticity allows a parent to partially regulate the internal temperature of flowers and developing fruits. Geographic studies of P. lanceolata show that this plasticity increases with latitude and altitude, i.e., where thermally variable reproductive seasons are, on average, short and cool. Results of manipulative field experiments provide evidence that this thermal plasticity is adaptive in such environments. We are currently measuring thermal plasticity in other fitness-related traits, measuring the maternal effects of this plasticity, and exploring the genetic basis for plasticity.

We are also examining how plasticity may help an exotic species expand its geographic range and how it may evolve after colonization. For this latter goal and in addition to Plantago, we are examining population differentiation in an invasive grass species Microstegium vimineum.

Microstegium vimineum