Ph.D., University of Texas, Austin, 1992
Office: 424B Biology Building
Phone: (985) 549-5294
Office Hours: posted outside office and by appointment
Teaching Expertise: Genetics, evolution, ecology, botany, Native Plants of Louisiana, plant systematics
Our research program is directed towards understanding the evolution of biodiversity. We focus our studies on the fascinating group of flowering plants, morning glories. There are over 700 species of morning glories distributed across the subtropics and tropics of the world. They present interesting diversity in floral morphology, habit, root structure, and some species form close associations with fungal symbionts to produce alkaloids to reduce herbivory. Morning glories have been model study organisms in evolutionary research for decades.
One of our primary goals is to develop a well-resolved phylogeny for morning glories (members of the tribe Ipomoeeae). We use genomic and molecular phylogenetic approaches to understand evolutionary relationships. In addition, we carry out studies to address taxonomic issues among closely-related groups of morning glories. The phylogenetic hypotheses we develop provide a context for understanding the evolution of ecologically important traits.
Our research combines systematics, evolutionary biology, ecology, molecular genetics, and more recently agricultural research in our fascination with the crop wild relatives of sweet potato, a group of morning glories called the Batatas complex. We enjoy greenhouse experiments, molecular work, learning what we can from herbarium specimens, collecting plants in the wild, field and garden experiments, and general botanizing in interesting natural areas.