Summer NSF-REU 2016. Michelle Gaynor (left) and Vivianna Sanchez (right) conducted NSF funded community phylogenetics research over the summer of 2016 with me at the Univ. of Colorado-Boulder. They each investigated ecological and evolutionary processes underlying plant community structure using occurrence data from the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), trait data from the literature and online databases, and DNA sequence data that they either generated themselves or downloaded from GenBank. They both presented the results of their research at the annual Botanical Society of America meetings in Savannah, GA.
Michelle is earning a degree in Biology at the University of Central Florida with interests in plant science and polyploidy (featured on the UCF College of Science pages!). For her REU project, presented  as a poster at the 2016 BSA meetings and a talk at the 2017 BSA meetings, she investigated the importance of polyploidy in structuring Brassicaceae and Rosaceae communities across the United States by combining species occurrence information from NEON, DNA sequence data, and cytogenetic data from primary literature. She won the best student poster award for her presentation in 2016 and the best undergraduate talk at the 2017 meeting. Michelle plans on continuing aspects of this research as she works toward pursuing a graduate degree in evolutionary biology.
Vivianna is earning a degree in Biology from Mount Saint Mary's University in Los Angeles, CA. She became interested in research early in her career and joined a lab investigating terrestrial and marine microbes. Last year, she conducted REU research investigating the taxonomy of coastal bioluminescent bacteria off the coast of the California Channel Islands. In 2016, Vivianna won a BSA PLANTS fellowship to present her REU project investigating how drought-adaptation traits shape Fagaceae and Ericaceae communities using a combination of species occurrences from NEON, DNA sequence data, trait measurements, and climate information from online databases at the BSA meetings.
University of Colorado Biological Sciences Initiative. Khoa Nguyen, Jessica Persinger, and William Weaver conducted independent research over the past several years with me. All of them were also independently funded by Univ. of Colorado Bioscience Undergraduate Research Skills and Training grants designed to introduce undergraduate students to research. They have all presented their work to peers and the scientific community at the annual Biosciences Initiative Undergraduate Research Symposium at CU-Boulder.
Jessica and William conducted a study on the phylogenetic community structure of plant species at sites surveyed by the National Ecological Observatory Network to investigate Darwin's Naturalization Conundrum about species invasions (are invasive species distantly or closely related to resident species?). Jessica was awarded a Research Experience for Undergraduates fellowship with Mitch Cruzan at Portland State Univ. for the summer of 2016, and has since started Masters research at PSU in evolutionary ecology.
William continued his research in the lab through his senior year, presenting his research at the 2016 Botanical Society of America meetings in Savannah, GA and the 2017 Ecological Society of America Meetings in Portland, OR. He is also helping us create a stand-alone program to measure phenotypic data from herbarium specimens using machine learning approaches. This Fall, Will will be exploring research opportunities for graduate school to continue pursuing his interests in computational approaches to investigating ecological questions.
Khoa has been conducting a phylogeographic investigation of L. tridentata and its South American sister species, L. divaricata, using chloroplast DNA sequences. He presented his research as the BSI Student Research Symposium in 2016 and 2017, and is conducting independent research at the Univ. of Colorado Medical Center this summer.
University of Colorado High School Student Research. Kaixin Cui, a local high school student, conducted research with me to resolve the phylogenetic and biogeographic relationships among species in the genus Cestrum (Solanaceae). She amplified and sequenced plastid and nuclear genes, created concatenated sequence alignments, and performed parsimony and maximum likelihood phylogenetic analyses. A major part of her research was to amplify the single-copy nuclear gene WAXY, which involved designing new primers and troubleshooting PCR protocols.
University of Nebraska Greenhouse. In 2014, Purity Muhia (left), Carter Kennell (right) , and Haydar Hasan (not pictured) conducted independent research into whether diploid, tetraploid, and hexaploid L. tridentata had different water use relationships. They conducted their research in the greenhouse on small plants collected from the field, gaining first hand experience designing and undertaking an experiment, while also managing live plants. They also co-authored a manuscript describing their results.
 *photos by R. Laport, J. Ng, S. Smith, W. Weaver, V. Sanchez, or M. Gaynor