Here is a list of REU mentors and potential projects that have been proposed for 2013. Mentors are recruited throughout the fall, winter and spring. Check back for updates. On your application please request one or more mentors and projects. Following acceptance, mentor assignment is based on student requests, mentor requests, and what we feel will be good matches.
Mentors and Projects
– Conservation Biology, Experimental Ecology: Effects of Global Climate Change on Rare Plants.
– Conservation Biology, Seed Banking Native Missouri Plants for Conservation: 1) Selection and prioritization of native species and sampling locations; 2) Establishing seed storage behavior information for native MO flora.
– Plant Systematics: Flora of Missouri: 1) DNA Barcoding the plants of Shaw Nature Reserve; 2) Pollen Atlas of Missouri; 3) Conservation genetics of rare plants.
– Plant Systematics, Species Ecology and Evolution: The genus Anthurium
in northern Central America – morphology, DNA, ecology and evolution.
- Aroid Flora of the Volcán Pichincha Region in Ecuador; Aroid Flora of Cordillera del Cóndor (Ecuador and Peru); Aroid florula of the Pacto-Mashpi Region (Pichincha Province) Ecuador.
- Conservation Biology, Restoration Ecology, LREC: Invasive species impacts on tree seedling recruitment.
- Plant Systematics, Evolutionary Analysis: Species delimitation based on continuous morphological characters.
- Ethnobotany, Natural Product Chemistry: Chemical composition and insecticidal properties of some plants used by small-scale farmers in Malawi for the control of field and storage insect pests.
- Identifying morphological traits associated with drought tolerance in grape: morphometric analysis of three North American grape species (Vitis acerifolia, V. riparia
, and V. rupestris)
– Plant Systematics, Herbarium Management: Documenting the Plants Collected by Early Explorers of Western North America in the MBG Herbarium.
- Plant Systematics, Pteridophytes, Fern Taxonomy: Describing a new fern species from Africa.
Demography and population ecology of rare plants
Ex situ conservation and autecology of endangered species in the Midwest.
Project: Effects of global climate change on rare plants. A major challenge for conservation biologists is predicting the fates of species in a rapidly changing climate of the 21st century. In the southeastern United States, rock outcrops support a distinctive flora that includes rare endemic plants, many of which are of conservation concern due to their restricted distributions and habitat destruction. Understanding the future fates of rare edaphic endemics is especially challenging because it’s unclear whether current distributions are limited by the specialized soils of outcrops, by climate, or by a combination of climate and soil. In this study, we ask two questions: 1) Can edaphic endemics live outside of their current climate niche? 2) What is the relative importance of soil and climate in restricting the distribution of edaphic endemics? To answer these questions, the student will conduct seed transplant experiments with species in the genus Leavenworthia, which are being used a model organisms to understand the role of climate and soil in structuring geographic distributions of rare edaphic endemics. The student will establish seed germination and seedling experiments in germination incubators set to current and future climate scenarios. Each week, the student will record demographic data (germination, survival, and plant morphometrics) for seeds and seedlings, maintain experimental conditions, and enter demographic data into a Microsoft Excel database. Additionally, the student may participate in measuring the microclimate of glades to better understand the environmental conditions these plants experience. Students can participate in the analysis and preparation of manuscripts based on the experimental data.
Albrecht, M.A. and J.C. Penagos Z. 2012. Seed germination ecology of three imperiled plants of rock outcrops in the southeastern United States. Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society 139: 85-94.
Albrecht, M.A. and J.M. Maschinsky. In press. Influence of founder population size, propagule stages, and life history on the survival of reintroduced plant populations. Reintroduction in a changing climate Promise and, Perils. J. Maschinski and K. E. Haskins (editors). Island Press, Washington, DC.
Albrecht, M.A., E.O Guerrant Jr., J.M. Maschinsky and K.L. Kennedy. 2011. Editorial: A long-term view of rare plant reintroduction. Biological Conservation 144: 2557-2558.
Albrecht, M.A. and B.C. McCarthy. 2011. Variation in seed dormancy and germination in three co-occurring forest herbs of eastern deciduous forests. Plant Ecology 212: 1465-1477.
Albrecht, M.A. and K.A. McCue. 2010. Changes in demographic processes over long time scales reveal the challenges of restoring an endangered plant. Restoration Ecology 18: 235-243.
Albrecht, M.A. and B.C. McCarthy. 2009. Seedling recruitment limitation shapes the distribution of shade-adapted forest herbs across a topographic moisture gradient. Journal of Ecology 97: 1037-1049.
GIS and remote sensing
Project: Seed Banking Native Missouri Plants for Conservation. Seed Banks are an increasingly important component of the international efforts to preserve plant biodiversity. By storing seeds we are able to preserve a large quantity of inter- and intra-specific genetic diversity within a relatively small space, for a relatively long span of time. In the future, if species are imperiled due to habitat loss or climate change, these stored genetic resources will be available for restoration and conservation purposes. In 2013 MBG will be launching a new Seed Bank. MBG’s germplasm conservation program has two simultaneous goals: (1) to place all wild-collected seed held by various divisions across the institution into long-term storage to preserve seed viability; (2) to collect and store seeds from multiple representative populations of the entire native Missouri flora, in order to protect these species from future habitat loss or climate change. There are opportunities for an interested student to participate in several different aspects of the research associated with the seed bank, including fieldwork for collecting seeds, germination studies and GIS analyses. The student will also be exposed to proper techniques for seed collection and cleaning, preparing herbarium specimens and maintaining proper field notes. Two main research foci are:
1) Selection and prioritization of native species and sampling locations. Utilizing a combination of natural history data, species range, phenology and life history information, and institutional priorities for ecosystem and habitats, we will be creating and implementing a decision matrix to prioritize species and sites for collections. This work involves GIS, spreadsheets and gathering information from large online databases (such MBG’s TROPICOS and the Natureserve website).
2) Establishing seed storage behavior information for native MO flora. While there is a general consensus on the appropriate storage conditions for the broad categories of seed types, there is very little documentation of the seed storage behavior of individual species, or how storage behavior might vary across species or populations, particularly of rare species. In order to ensure that we are providing adequate conditions to preserve the genetic material over the long-term we will be conducting research on the storage behavior of many unique MO taxa. Specifically we will be asking how different treatments of drying and cold storage affect seed germination and viability.
Some general information on seed banks:
Saving seeds in the bank for future use
Seed Conservation: Turning Science into Practice
Dr. David Bogler
Asst. Curator, MBG
Molecular Techniques, DNA Sequencing
Plant Anatomy, Morphology, Cytology
Flora of Missouri, Southwestern U.S., Mexico
Agavaceae, Monocots, Legumes, Cycads
Project: Flora of Missouri. David Bogler currently manages the Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program and botanical laboratory at MBG, overseeing staff, students, and visitors using the anatomy, molecular, microscopes, and SEM equipment. Currently there are three ongoing projects available:
1) DNA Barcoding the Plants of Shaw Nature Reserve. An exciting new development in plant systematics is the rise of DNA barcoding - the use of standardized short DNA sequences to identify plants and animals to the species level (CBOL Plant Working Group 2009). Although not without problems, DNA barcodes have the potential to revolutionize plant taxonomy by making it possible for non-specialists to identify species quickly and efficiently. Applications are found in conservation biology where they can be used to rapidly identify endangered, invasive, or rainforest species. MBG has a project to generate a 2-gene DNA sequence barcode for all plant species at the Garden's Shaw Nature Reserve. This reserve consists of 2,400 acres of Ozark forest, bottomland forest, riparian areas, natural glades and restored tall-grass prairie. In total, the reserve contains 1,053 species, 503 genera, and 151 families of plants, including bryophytes. Students who choose this project will become familiar with the plants and communities at SNR through weekly field trips, collect and identify plants using keys and the herbarium, prepare high quality voucher specimens, preserve leaf material in silica for DNA, extract DNA using FastPrep kits, run gels, and amplify the specific DNA barcode regions (rbcL, matK). Primers for these regions have been designed to work for a broad range of plants. Barcode sequences will be uploaded to GenBank and the Barcode of Life Database (BOLD) to make them available to the public. The sequences will be compared with other species in the genus as well as with sequences from the same species from elsewhere in its range that are already in the database. Blind tests will be performed to see how well the barcodes identify species. Publications will discuss the effectiveness of barcoding sequences in identifying species and regional variation.
2.) Pollen Atlas of Midwestern Plants: Shaw Nature Reserve. Plant pollen and pollinators are important and often under-appreciated components of natural and agricultural ecosystems. All plants produce pollen. About 70% of all plants require animal pollinators, including 35% of crops worldwide, yet we know little about pollen and native pollinators of our non-crop species. As part of a larger collaborative project on pollination biology, Dr. Bogler is producing an online pollen atlas of Missouri plants, with multiple pollen images, an interactive key to identification, pollen descriptions, and information on pollination biology. Currently there is no single source for this information, and many species in Missouri lack even minimal information on pollen or pollinators. We are starting with one species from each of the 422 genera of flowering plants at Shaw Nature Reserve, and eventually plan to include all 878 genera of vascular plants in Missouri. One or two students will collect specimens in the field and prepare voucher specimens for the herbarium, process pollen samples using acetolysis, and image pollen grains using light microscopy and SEM. Pollen will be carefully measured and digitally imaged using the Olympus BX40 microscope and JEOL JCM 5000 tabletop SEM in our lab. Students will research the literature for information on pollination biology and encouraged to make original field observations on flower visitors and pollination biology. With guidance, students will prepare pollen descriptions and add their taxa to the interactive key, along with information about pollination biology. The results will be incorporated into the online Missouri Pollen Project webpage (prototype).
3.) Conservation Genetics of Rare Plants. Many species of plants become endangered when their habitats are taken or adversely affected by human activities. As populations become smaller and more isolated there an increased possibility of losing genetic variation. Some species may pass through a "genetic bottleneck" where they lose a high proportion of gene variants, reducing their species' potential to adapt to changing conditions. Habitat managers must make practical decisions about how to conserve the remnant populations and maximize genetic diversity. Some species have been "rescued" by growing them "ex situ" in botanical gardens. In some cases it is possible to propagate rare species in gardens and reintroduce them back into the wild. For a few taxa there is more genetic variation in garden collections than exists in the wild. Intelligent conservation requires quantitative information on genetic variation. At MBG we are developing several population-level molecular markers to measure genetic variation, including sequencing, ISSRs, AFLPs and microsatellites. Students will work on several model species that are rare in the wild but under cultivation at the Garden to develop protocols and produce preliminary genetic data, analyze the data using computer software, and summarize the results. Possible taxa include Delphinium exaltatum, Lindera melissaefolium, Leitneria floridana, and Agave eggersiana.
Selected Publications and Websites
Bogler, D. J., J. C. Pires, and J. Francisco-Ortega. 2006. Phylogeny of Agavaceae based on ndhF, rbcL, and ITS Sequences: Implications of molecular data for classification
. In: Columbus, J.T., E.A. Friar, J.M. Porter, L.M. Prince, and M. G. Simpson [eds.]. Monocots: comparative biology and evolution. 2 vols, p. 311-326. Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, Claremont, California, USA.
Bogler, D. J. 2006. Cucurbitaceae. In: G. Yatskievych (Ed.), Steyermark's Flora of Missouri, Volume 2, p. 974-988. Missouri Department of Conservation and Missouri Botanical Garden.
Dr. Monica Carlsen
Research Associate, Center for Conservation and Sustainable Development, MBG
Anthurium (Araceae) systematics, ecology and evolution
Molecular phylogenetics, spatial distribution modeling and biogeography
Rapid radiations of species
Plant species diversity and geographic distribution in tropical regions
Species richness disparities between sister clades
Phylogenetic structure of ecological niche preferences
Web Pages - Monica Carlsen PhD in Plant Systematics, Ecology and Evolution
, The Genus Anthurium
Project: The genus Anthurium in northern Central America – morphology, DNA, ecology and evolution. Monica Carlsen is one of the specialists in the Araceae family at MBG. Araceae are a diverse tropical plant family with ca. 3,000 species, highly valuable as ornamental plants and flowers. Her research focuses in understanding the rapid radiation of the species-rich (ca. 900 species) Neotropical genus Anthurium (“flamingo” or “wax flower”), integrating revisionary taxonomical studies, molecular phylogenetics, fossil calibrations and dating, biogeography and species distribution modeling. Several interesting biogeographic patterns have been discovered in Anthurium, one of them involving species restricted to northern Central America (Mexico to Honduras). These species (approx. 60) are divided in two groups (lineages), which differ in terms of diversity, morphology and ecological preferences. The main objective of this project is to perform a detailed study of these species in order to understand the evolutionary history of Anthurium in the area. With the mentor’s guidance, students will learn to morphologically describe Anthurium species, generate molecular data to analyze species relationships, and produce ecological niche models. This is a multidisciplinary project, therefore the student(s) could choose to be involved in all or just some of the following activities: sorting out species of Anthurium, use of herbarium (dried) and living collections, describing basic morphological features of species, developing and using Lucid interactive key technology, DNA extraction, PCR amplification and sequencing, and species distribution modeling using specimen’s collection localities and climatic variables. A maximum of two students could be associated with this project. Student(s) will assist Dr. Carlsen in the preparation of a manuscript and be co-author(s) for a publication based on the results of this project.
Carlsen, M. and Croat, T.B. (2013, in press). A molecular phylogeny of the species-rich Neotropical genus Anthurium (Araceae) based on combined chloroplast and nuclear DNA. Systematic Botany.
Croat, T.B. and Carlsen, M. 2003. Familia Araceae. Flora del Bajío y regiones adjacentes. Publicaciones del Instituto de Ecología de Michoacán, Mexico. 35 pp.
Croat, T.B. 1983. A revision of the genus Anthurium (Araceae) of Mexico and Central America. Part I: Mexico and Middle America. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 70(2): 211-417.
Dr. Tom Croat
Systematics and Ecology of Neotropical Araceae
Floristics of Araceae for Neotropical Areas
Horticulture of Araceae
Phenological Variations of Neotropical Floras
Project: Aroid Flora of the Volcán Pichincha Region in Ecuador; Aroid Flora of Cordillera del Cóndor (Ecuador and Peru); Aroid florula of the Pacto-Mashpi Region (Pichincha Province) Ecuador. Tom Croat is a widely acknowledged expert on the aroid family, Araceae, a very large and diverse family in the tropics. He maintains a living aroid collection of over 10,000 plants. Dr. Croat spends much of his time in the field collecting aroids in the Andes and Amazon regions of South America. His field collection numbers recently surpassed 100,000. Most recently he has been collecting plants in the Volcán Pichincha region of Ecuador, the Cordillera del Cóndor in Peru. These areas are geographically isolated on the edge of the Amazon basin, with numerous endemic species. With guidance, students will learn to identify known species using diagnostic keys and herbarium collections. New species are expected and students will assist Dr. Croat in their description and publication. Undergraduate students working with Croat have accomplished this successfully on many occasions in the past. Students will also compile lists of species from these regions, and use Sorenson's Index and other indices to compare species richness, endemicity, and floristic relationships of the aroids in these sites to other areas of South America. All of these projects will involve sorting out species of Araceae, describing new species and publishing new species with the senior author; developing and using Lucid interactive key technology to determine collections; dealing with both dried and living collections of Araceae. See more about aroids and the Principal Investigator at International Aroid Society.
Croat, T. B. 1997b. A revision of Philodendron subgenus Philodendron (Araceae) for Mexico and Central America. Ann. Missouri Bot. Gard. 84(3): 311–704.
_______, A. Jackson and C. V. Kostelac. 2010. New species of Araceae from the Cordillera del Cóndor, Ecuador. Willdenowia 40: 123-136.
_______, Keith Lee, Whitney Wodstrchill & C. V. Kostelac, 2011. New species of Anthurium (Araceae) from South America, Aroideana 34: 45–63.
Restoration Ecologist, Litzsinger Road Ecology Center, MBG
Invasive plant management
Riparian forest ecology
Project: Invasive species impacts on tree seedling recruitment. Located in the heart of the St. Louis metropolitan area, just 10 miles west of downtown St. Louis, the 34-acre study Litzsinger Road Ecology Center (LREC) encompasses a rich variety of habitats including bottomland forest, restored prairie, and an urban creek. The LREC prairie was part of a larger prairie in pre-settlement times. The area was used for agriculture, but since 1988 it has been the site a prairie restoration effort through intensive planting of prairie species and annual burns. The riparian woodland at LREC is comprised of a diverse mix of mature tree species, including Acer negundo, Celtis occidentalis, Fraxinus pennsylvanica, Platanus occidentalis, Populus deltoides, Tilia americana, Ulmus americana, and Ulmus rubra. Many of these species are relatively short-lived and strong storms over the past three years have torn down numerous canopy trees. We are interested in determining what species are likely to replace the fallen trees in order to improve our ability to make stand-management decisions. In addition, the riparian woodlands at LREC are in various stages of restoration, ranging from areas still fully engulfed in invasive Lonicera maackii and Euonymus fortunei to areas that are largely restored in which we have successfully been able to reintroduce fire as a management tool. We would like to determine the ability of seedlings to grow under this range of conditions. The student will evaluate the number and diversity of seedlings in LREC woodland plots that have undergone varying degrees of invasive species control. The student will also analyze the dataset in order to assist us in answering these questions.
Haake, Danelle M., Wilton, Tom, Krier, Ken, Stewart, Arthur J. and Cormier, Susan M. 2010. Causal Assessment of Biological Impairment in the Little Floyd River, Iowa, USA. Human and Ecological Risk Assessment, 16: 1, 116-148.
Dr. Iván Jiménez
Asst. Curator, Analysis Unit, Center for Conservation and Sustainable Development, MBG
Understanding the determinants of the abundance and distribution of organisms at a variety of spatial scales, ranging from the small extents on which foraging theory focuses, to the broad geographic extents characteristic of macroecology.
Project: Species delimitation based on continuous morphological characters. Delimiting species is essential for elucidating the processes driving the origin and maintenance of biological diversity, as well as for basic and applied research in many areas of biology. Yet, how one goes about delimiting species has been a controversial issue in systematics. A broad consensus seems to be growing around the notion of recognizing species as separately evolving segments of metapopulation-level lineages (de Queiroz 1998, 2005). This notion provides a context for integrating information from different sources for inferring lineage separation and thus for evaluating hypotheses about species boundaries. It also fosters the use and development of a wide range of methods for inferring species limits (de Queiroz 2007). However, approaches to delimit species using morphological variation have received little attention recently (Wiens 2007, but see Wiens and Servedio 2000, Erard et al. 2010, Zapata and Jiménez 2011). This is surprising because many, perhaps most, species are still delimited based on statements made by museum/herbarium-based systematists about patterns of morphological variation (Luckow 1995; Wiens and Servedio 2000). Even when other kinds of data are used (such as environmental, geographic and molecular genetic data) morphological variation plays a major role in species delimitation (e.g., Bond and Stockman 2008). This project focuses on examining the performance of methods recently proposed by Erard et al. (2010) to delimit species based on continuous morphological characters. The student(s) participating in this project would use measurements of continuous morphological characters previously published to examine the performance of various statistical approaches to delimit species. The student(s) would use the R environment to implement statistical methods used in species delimitation. No previous experience with statistics or the R environment is needed; but if the student is not familiar with the R language or basic statistics, disposition to learn a computer language and statistics is required.
Bond J.E., Stockman A.K. 2008. An integrative method for delimiting cohesion species: finding the population-species interface in a group of Californian trapdoor spiders with extreme genetic divergence and geographic structuring. Syst. Biol. 57:628-646.
de Queiroz K. 1998. The general lineage concept of species, species criteria, and the process of speciation: a conceptual unification and terminological recommendations. In: Howard DJ, Berlocher SH, editors. Endless forms: species and speciation. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 57-75.
de Queiroz K. 2005. A unified concept of species and its consequences for the future of taxonomy. Proc. Calif. Acad. Sci. 56:196-215.
de Queiroz K. 2007. Species concepts and species delimitation. Syst. Biol.56:879-886.
Erard T.H.G, Pearson PN, Purvis A. 2010. Algorithmic approaches to aid species’ delimitation in multidimensional morphospace. BMC Evolutionary Biology 10:175.
Luckow M. 1995. Species concepts: assumptions, methods and applications. Syst. Bot. 20:589-605.
Wiens J.J.. 2007. Species delimitation: new approaches for discovering diversity. Syst. Biol. 56:875-878.
Wiens J.J., Penkrot T.A. 2002. Delimiting species using DNA and morphological variation and discordant species limits in spiny lizards (Sceloporus). Syst. Biol. 51:69-91.
Wiens J.J., Servedio M.R. 2000. Species delimitation in systematics: inferring diagnostic differences between species. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B. 267:631-636.
Zapata F, Jiménez I. 2012. Species Delimitation: Inferring Gaps in Morphology across Geography. Systematic Biology 61: 179-194.
Neotropical floristics and conservation
Project: Monograph of Passiflora subgenus Decaloba. A new monograph of Passiflora subgenus Decaloba is under development at Missouri Botanical Garden. The genus was last monographed by Killip in1938, but this work did not include the species of the old world. A revision was produced by de Wilde in 1972, but the two have never been put together in a single treatment and both works are now outdated. The new monograph will include 225–240 species. We have obtained loans from all over the world and all pertinent literature is at hand. We see this as a unique opportunity for students to integrate in a project where modern morphometric research is performed. The task of putting together the monograph is huge. We deal with approximately 500 names, more than 25,000 specimens, and many partial treatments in the literature. The geographical scope includes the southern United States to northern Argentina. The group is morphologically diverse, so the first task will be to learn about the terminology of the many different organs. The student will also learn normal curatorial practices and specimen handling. We seek student that can work under guidance, but are able to perform independently, and do so productively. We will provide appropriate training. We seek help to describe new species that are loosely defined currently but need full descriptions and comparison to other species and species complexes. Depending on interests and experience, students will be involved three Tasks:
1) Measuring - observing and recording up to 500 variables per specimen;
2) Data analysis - using one or more multivariable techniques to determine if the specimens assigned to a species name are homogeneous. We here seek students with some statistical analysis experience and knowledge of R. We envision the use of cluster analysis, Principal Component Analysis, Detrended Correspondence Analysis, and NMMS;
3) Develop a method to synthesize the measurements and observations of the specimens (assigned to a species name) into a draft description. We can extract the information from a series of specimens that task 2, has confirmed to be a single species. The statistical work to find minimum, maximum, mean values, and count frequencies of variables could be performed in Excel, and through a mail merge setup in Word lead to a draft description. But, there are other possibilities (such as R), so this could become dependent on the students’ knowledge and skills. Full credit will be given to students that decide to participate with publications commensurate with his or her participation.
Jørgensen, P.M. (ed.) 2009. Biodiversity and Conservation in the Andes. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 96(3): 369–520.
Ulloa Ulloa, C., S. Álvarez Molina, P.M. Jørgensen and D. Minga. 2009. Guía de 100 plantas silvestres del páramo del Parque Nacional Cajas/Cajas National Park field guide of 100 wild plants of the páramo. Spanish/English edition. Pp. 1–90. ETAPA, Cuenca. [Second edition]
Jørgensen, P. M. 2004. Three new species of Passiflora subgenus Decaloba (Passifloraceae) from Ecuador. Nord. J. Bot. 23(1): 11–19.
Jørgensen, P.M. and M. Weigend. 2004. Passiflora inca a New Species of Passifloraceae from Peru and Bolivia. Novon 14(1): 79-83.
Pitman, N.C.A and P.M. Jørgensen. 2002. Estimating the Size of the World's Threatened Flora. Science 298: 989.
Project: Chemical composition and insecticidal properties of some plants used by small-scale farmers in Malawi for the control of field and storage insect pests. John Kamanula is an analytical plant chemist at Mzuzu University with broad interests in natural products, particularly from pesticidal and medicinal plants. He currently is a senior lecturer in chemistry and has managed a number of researched projects related to the proposed research project. He is familiar with extraction, isolation and identification of bioactive compounds from plant material. He also has a wide experience in evaluation of the efficacy of plant materials against storage insect pests of maize and beans. As part of a USAID NSF PEER grant, he will be spending 10 weeks at MBG where he will participate in the REU program. Stored crop and field losses caused by insect pests present some of the biggest threats to food security in Sub-Saharan Africa. Crop storage losses of 40-100 % have been reported in Malawi by researchers. These losses have adverse effects on food security, human nutrition and present major hurdles for attaining the Millennium Development Goals. Conventionally, farmers in Malawi use synthetic insecticides such as Actellic super dust, Shumba dust, Grain dust, phoskill, and dimethoate, among others, to control stored grain and vegetable insect pests. Although synthetic insecticides are usually effective, their use is associated with several problems. Most synthetic insecticides are (1) expensive to ordinary farmers, (2) persistent pollutants in the environment; (3) often adulterated, mislabelled or expired, making them difficult to use safely and reliably; and thus (4) prone to developing insect resistance. These problems with commercial synthetics can be overcome by using indigenous plant materials with pesticidal properties. African farmers perceive pesticidal plants as safe, cost-effective alternatives. Such plants can either be grown or collected locally, meaning the cost of use is measured in terms of labour to collect and process. Such natural materials naturally break down in soil or by ultraviolet light, cannot be adulterated when collected by the farmer, and reduce the development of insect resistance because several active ingredients are often acting together. Generations of farmers in Malawi have used plants for pest control, making the technology acceptable. However, the scientific evidence for the efficacy, correct dosage and application methods of the plant materials used by smallholder farmers is not fully understood. Many species of plant are collected from wild/semi-domestic habitats, and farmers do recognise the value of protecting the biodiversity of such habitats. However, the efficacy and correct application dosages of these plant materials and their extracts, mechanisms of sustainable harvesting and evaluation of the ecosystem services provided by such habitats is not well-developed in Malawi.
In the REU (MBG) project, one or two U.S. undergraduate students will evaluate the efficacy of some pesticidal plants used by farmers in Malawi for the management of storage insect pests of maize. They will also carry out phytochemical analysis of these plants using relatively simple analytical chemistry techniques.
Stevenson, P.C., Nyirenda, S.P., Mvumi, B.M, Sola, P., Kamanula, J.F., Sileshi, G.W., and Belmain, S.R (2012). Pesticidal plants: A viable Alternative Insect Pest Management Approach for Resource-poor Farming in Africa. In Opender et al., Botanicals in Environment and Food Security, Scientific Publishers, Jodhpur, India. (Book chapter, pp. 212-238).
Belmain, S.R., Amoah, B.A., Nyirenda, S.P., Kamanula, J.F. and Stevenson, P.C. (2012). Highly Variable Insect Control Efficacy of Tephrosia vogelii Chemotypes. J. Agric. Food Chem, 60, 10055-10063.
Kamanula, J., Sileshi, G., Belmain, S.R., Sola, P., Mvumi, B.M., Nyirenda, G.K.C., Nyirenda, S.P. and Stevenson, P.C. (2011). Farmers’ Insect Pest management practices and pesticidal plant use in the protection of stored maize and beans in Southern Africa. International Journal of Pest Management Vol. 57, No.1, January-March, 41-49.Muzemu, S. Mvumi, B.M., Nyirenda, S.P.M., Sileshi, G.W., Sola, P., Kamanula, J.F., Belmain, S.R. and Stevenson, P.C. (2011). Pesticidal effects of indigenous plants extracts against rape aphids and tomato red spider mites. African Crop Science Proceedings, Vol. 10, pp. 169-171.
Dr. Allison Miller
Assoc. Professor, Saint Louis University; Research Associate, MBG
Botany and plant evolution
Population genetics and evolutionary genomics
Economically and ecologically important plants
Project: Identifying morphological traits associated with drought tolerance in grape: morphometric analysis of three North American grape species (Vitis acerifolia, V. riparia, and V. rupestris). Allison Miller integrates evolutionary and population genetics, genomics, field-, orchard-, and herbarium-collected morphological and phenological data, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) databases. The long-term goals of my research program are to address fundamental evolutionary questions in crop systems and to contribute to the growing body of research facilitating crop improvement and the conservation of crop genetic resources.Naturally occurring variation found in locally adapted populations of crop wild relatives represents an important source of variation associated with abiotic (temperature, drought) and biotic (pests, pathogens) stress resistance. In Missouri, native grapes (Vitis spp.) have evolved in response to challenging climates such as extremely hot and humid summers, cold winters, and marginal soil conditions. Missouri grapevines are inter-fertile with one another and with the European grape (V. vinifera). In some ways, grapevines are unusual crops because cultivated varieties usually consist of two genetically distinct entities that are grafted to one another: the above-ground part of the plant (the scion) produces the stem, leaves, flowers, and berries, and the below-ground part (the rootstock) makes the lower stem and roots. Grafting in grapevine dates back to the mid-1800’s when insects in the genus Phylloxera devastated the French grape industry. Starting with this crisis, Missouri grapevines have been key genetic resources for the development of abiotic and biotic stress resistant rootstocks and hybrid grapes (Pongrácz, 1983; Galet, 1988). Indeed, today the bulk of the grape industry in France consists of European grapes growing on American Vitis roots, including many from Missouri.
Consequently, native Missouri Vitis species are important for local, national, and international grape and wine industries. The proposed project focuses on documenting morphological variation in a clade of three species of North American Vitis species. Two of these species (V. acerifolia and V. rupestris) are extremely drought-tolerant. Their sister taxon, V. riparia lives in wetter areas. What are the morphological differences that distinguish these taxa? The undergraduate researcher will work closely with Dr. Miller and SLU PhD student Laura Klein, and will be involved in collecting morphometric data in the MO herbarium, as well as fieldwork to augment existing collections. Morphometric data in conjunction with environmental data derived from GIS databases, will be used to identify morphological traits associated with dry areas.
Jaillon O., Aury J.-M., Noel B. et al. 2007. The grapevine genome sequence suggests ancestral hexaploidization in major angiosperm phyla. Nature 449: 463-467.
Aradhya, M., Y. Wang, M. A. Walker, B. H. Prins, A. M. Koehmstedt, D. Velasco, J. M. Gerrath, G. S. Dangl, and J. E. Preece. 2012. Genetic diversity, structure, and patterns of differentiation in the genus Vitis. Plant Systematics and Evolution. 10.1007/s00606-012-0723-4.
Miller A.J. and B.L. Gross. 2011. From forest to field: perennial fruit crop domestication. American Journal of Botany 98: 1389-1414.
Myles, S., J. – M., Chia, B. Hurwitz, C. Simon, G. Y. Zhong, E. Buckler, and D. Ware. 2010. Rapid genomic characterization of the genus Vitis. PLoS One 5(1): e8219.
Myles, S., A. R. Boyko, C. L. Owens, P. J Brown, F. Grassi, M. K. Aradhya, B. Prins, A. Reynolds, D. Ware, C. D. Bustamante, and E. S. Buckler. 2011. Genetic structure and domestication history of the grape. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108(9): 3530 – 3535.
Schultz H.R. 2000. Climate change and viticulture: a European perspective on climatology, carbon dioxide and UV-B effects. Australian Journal of Grape Wine Research
Zecca, G., J. R. Abbott, W. – B. Sun, A. Spada, F. Sala, and F. Grassi. 2012. The timing and mode of evolution of wild grapes (Vitis). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 62: 736-747.
Flora of Bolivia
Project: Documenting the Plants Collected by Early Explorers of Western North America in the MBG Herbarium. James Solomon is Curator of the Herbarium and oversees a staff of 30 full-time project managers, herbarium assistants, plant mounters, specimen filers, specimen digitizers, in addition to working on Cactaceae and Vitaceae. The herbarium currently contains over 6.2 million sheets – one of the largest such collections in the world, and contains significant holdings of North American material, including type specimens from the early period of western North American plant exploration. Working from St. Louis at MBG, George Engelmann organized some of the earliest botanical explorations into the American West and Northern Mexico. Within the herbarium there are a significant number of specimens collected during these and additional expeditions west of the Mississippi River. A student can choose historically important collectors and their collections as the focus of their project. They will study archival materials and published literature on the person’s collecting activities, locate the collector's specimens in the herbarium collection using Tropicos and personal searches, verify identification, amplify locality data from archival and literature sources, work with MBG staff to digitally image the specimens, and help produce a summary and online electronic catalog. The student will use historical records and literature, handle and manage herbarium specimens, receive exposure to vascular plant taxonomy and nomenclature, data entry and digital imaging procedures. This is a good opportunity for someone who has some experience with herbarium work and would like to obtain in-depth training.
Floristics of the United States, Mexico
Revision of Steyermark's Flora of Missouri
Parasitic plants, Orobanchaceae
Project: Describing a new fern species from Africa. George Yatskievych is the Director of the Flora of Missouri Project at MBG, overseeing the production of a new three-volume book on all the species of Missouri. In addition, he does research on various fern groups and parasitic angiosperms. MBG botanical explorations yield a large number of species new to science each year. The job of the plant taxonomist has three parts: 1) to recognize when a specimen represents an undescribed taxon; 2) the description of the new taxon (and its morphological distinction from related, previously described species); and 3) the study of the phylogenetic and taxonomic relationships of the novelty to other plants. On 17 July 2008, an unusual specimen of a small fern was collected by botanists working for the Missouri Botanical Garden in the Central African country of Gabon. Pteridologists (fern specialists) have since been unable to locate a published name for this plant, and it appears to be a new species in the fern family Tectariaceae. The student will work with MBG curator George Yatskievych to develop a detailed morphological description of the new taxon from the available herbarium material and will review the scientific literature on the family Tectariaceae to find suggestions of potentially related species. The student also will help to write a botanical key to distinguish the new species from its potential relatives. Finally, we will extract DNA from the novelty and a small number of related species, amplify selected molecular markers for DNA sequencing, and conduct a phylogenetic analysis of the group. The descriptive and comparative data from the library, herbarium, and laboratory will be compiled into a paper to be submitted for publication in a botanical journal that will result in the formal description of this fern as new to science.
Jessee, L.H., and G. Yatskievych. 2011. A new putative hybrid in Silphium (Asteraceae: Heliantheae). Phytoneuron 2011-62: 1–7.
Sigel, E. M., M. D. Windham, L. Huiet, G. Yatskievych, and K. M. Pryer. 2011. Species relationships and farina evolution in the cheilanthoid fern genus Argyrochosma (Pteridaceae). Syst. Bot. 36: 554–564.
Mora-Olivo, A., and G. Yatskievych. 2009. Salvinia molesta in Mexico. Amer. Fern J. 99: 56–58.
Phylogeny, systematics, and evolution of ferns, lycophytes, and flowering plants
Biogeography of intercontinental disjunctions of plants: e.g., Anisophyllaceae, Fabaceae, Primulaceae, Rosaceae
Project: Pollen morphology of Anisophylleaceae. The family Anisophylleaceae (order Cucurbitales) is one of the least known seed plant groups, comprising ca. 66 species in four genera: Anisophyllea with two species in South America, ca. 25 in mainland Africa, four in Madagascar, and ca. 31 in Malesia, Combretocarpus with one species in Sumatra and Borneo, Poga with one species in equatorial Africa, and Polygonanthus with two in the Brazilian Amazon Basin. Except for a few economically important species, Anisophylleaceae are rarely collected and their ecology, pollination, and seed dispersal biology have not been studied. Combretocarpus rotundatus and Poga oleosa are important timber trees, and the seeds of Poga also yield cooking oil. The continental disjunctions among and within the genera led Raven and Axelrod (1974) to hypothesize a West Gondwanan history for the group. An ongoing taxonomic work shows that the leaf shape, the morphology of venation, glandular hairs and/or glands, and flower organs are major taxonomic characters. This project aims to examine the pollen morphology (e.g., size, sculpturing) of most species of the family (pollen material is already available) using electronic scanning microscope. The palynological characters gathered will be used to test morphological, taxonomic, and biogeographical hypotheses.
Zhang L-B, MP Simmons, and SS Renner. 2007. A phylogeny of Anisophylleaceae based on six nuclear and plastid loci: Ancient disjunctions and recent dispersal between South America, Africa, and Asia. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 44: 1057–1067.
Chen X and L-B Zhang (in prep.). A taxonomic revision of Anisophylleaceae.