Research Interests: I have broad interests in evolutionary ecology, including the evolution of plant mating systemshybridization and the distribution and abundance of fungal endophytes in natural grass populations. I apply demographic modeling techniques to predict the population dynamics of symbionts in natural host populations under varying degrees of host gene flow.

Current Research (PhD) : I am currently investigating the coevolutionary dynamics between cool-season grasses in the family Pooideae and their vertically transmitted fungal endosymbionts. Specifically, I am interested in how gene flow alters host fitness and symbiont compatibility as well as host/symbiont long-term population dynamics. I use both experimental and population modeling techniques to address these questions in the field as well as the greenhouse.

Fungal endophyte between plant cells

Getting rid of those pesky fire ants!

My beautiful semi-natural common garden.

Past Research (MA) :  Elements of climate change, including increased variation in annual rainfall, may influence the evolution of plant mating systems and alter patterns of  gene flow between species. As a Masters student in the Whitney lab I quantified the role of soil moisture on hybridization rates between two species of sunflower (Helianthus).

A monarch (Danaus plexippus) nectaring from the inflorescence of the common sunflower (Helianthus annuus)

Additional Graduate Research: Distribution of fungal endophytes across an elevational cline: A study in an alpine grass (Poa alpina).

At 3,500 meters sampling Poa alpina (RMBL)

Undergraduate Research : As an undergraduate at the University of Nevada, Reno I became fascinated by gene flow between species and exploring what it means to be a “species.” In the Forister lab I was able to explore these questions by conducting a phylogenetic study on a largely unresolved species complex (Euphilotes pallescens). I found that evolutionary history is not always a clean branching process, but more like a web where branches cross and reticulate over time via gene flow. (Work published in the Journal of Biogeography).

Pallid-dotted Blue butterfly (Euphilotes pallescens)

Carolyn Young (Noble Foundation Ardmore, OK)
Adrienne Simoes Correa (Rice University Houston, TX)
Jennifer Rudgers (University of New Mexico, NM)
Lesley Campbell (Ryerson University Toronto, Ontario, CA)
Joseph Wilson (University of Utah Tooele, UT)

Click here to see some of my photography!