2014 Mentor Projects
Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis, Moraceae), a traditional staple crop in Oceania, is poised to become an important international crop in the coming century, with major implications for food security in the tropical developing world. Previous research by Zerega et al. identified the wild progenitor of breadfruit (A.
The Plants of Concern (POC) program (plantsofconcern.org) monitors and assesses long-term trends for over 200 species of the Chicago Region's endangered, threatened, and rare plants species, and provides this data to partner landowners and managers for conservation decision making.
Lepidospartum burgessii is a rare gypsophiliccshrub with limited distribution in New Mexico and Texas. Most of the known plants are restricted to two large populations, with a few small, isolated populations scattered in the surrounding area.
The bison are coming to a prairie near you! The Nachusa Grasslands, the largest privately held reserve in northern Illinois, is bringing bison back to the prairie. The objective of this project is to collect baseline vegetation data in the year prior to bison release as part of a long-term demographic study.
Brighamia insignis, (olulu or alula in Hawaiian), is a Hawaiian lobeliad endemic to the islands of Kauai and Niihau. The species was listed as federally endangered in 1994 when there were only five populations totaling 45 to 65 individuals total. It is now listed as critically endangered, as there remains only a single wild individual clinging to the slopes of the Na Pali Coast on Kauai.
This research project is an examination of fossil plants from the Early Cretaceous of Mongolia. This is an international collaborative project involving scientists from Mongolia and Japan, as well as Yale University and Field Museum within the US. Mongolia is well known for its fossil dinosaurs, but less well appreciated is that the country has rich fossil plant deposits.
The objective of this project is to identify ecologically important symbiotic and saprotrophic fungi from understudied seasonally dry tropical forests in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula using cutting edge tools.
Plant genetics involve more than GMO crops and gene splicing! Native plants have genes, too, and they could mean the difference between a population's survival and extinction. Our research looks for possible genetic divergence between wild and reintroduced populations of Castilleja levisecta, or golden paintbrush.
Green roofs have the potential to provide habitat and other resources for native plant and animal species in urban environments. Previous research has found that a variety of such species do use green roofs but further investigation is needed to determine how these habitats can be designed to make greater contributions to urban biodiversity conservation.
Investigating Plant Regeneration Responses along an Environmental Gradient: This project aims to examine variation in tolerance range for dormancy break, germination of seeds, and establishment of seedlings, in order to compare contemporary and future regeneration within the context of climate change.
Natural areas are managed using aboveground methods, but these methods have profound influences on belowground processes. Decomposition is an important process that is driven by soil organisms and determines nutrient availability for next year's plant growth. This project investigates how restoration methods influence decomposition and fungal decomposer communities.
This project focuses on interactions between a suite of biocontrol weevils and the threatened plant, Cirsium pitcheri, and carries implications for management and biocontrol usage in the United States. Work will be split between a lab at the Chicago Botanic Garden and field sites in Door County, Wisconsin.
Research in the Wickett lab makes use of high-throughput (next generation) DNA sequencing and bioinformatics to gain insight into how genome and gene-family diversification is related to the evolution of morphological, ecological, and molecular novelty in plants.
In western Minnesota, prairie restorations with the non-native Echinacea pallida have been planted near prairie remnants with the native Echinacea angustifolia. These two species are able to hybridize. Hybrid plants could threaten the native Echinacea by genetic swamping and they may not support as diverse an assemblage of insect herbivores.
The plant tribe Onagreae (Onagraceae; the evening primrose family) and its associated insects pollinators (Sphingidae hawkmoth) and herbivores (Mompha microlepidoptera and Hawkmoth larvae) is a model systems for studying the role of floral scent in shaping the evolution of plants and their associated organisms across western North America.
Fungi are ubiquitous in soils. However, it remains virtually unknown how dead fungal mass (fungal necromass) is degraded, and what portion of it contributes to the slow turnover of soil organic matter pools.
Restoration of habitat degraded by invasive species, wildfires, or other disturbances is occurring on a large scale in the western United States. These restoration efforts are often limited by lack of knowledge about which species will perform best in these degraded sites, and limited availability of affordable, appropriate native seeds.
Ecological restoration is the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed. One key decision that has to be made when carrying out a restoration is determining where the seed should come from.