Shelley Sianta joins the Clarkia speciation project!

Shelley Sianta started as a postdoc with the Brandvain and Moeller labs to work on evolutionary theory and population genomics of plant speciation. She comes to UMN from UC Santa Cruz where she completed her PhD in Kathleen Kay’s lab. Her dissertation examined adaptive divergence and speciation in the California serpentine flora.

Meta-analysis published in American Naturalist

Ryan, Amanda, and Dave worked with other UMN collaborators on a synthesis of local adaptation that compares the strength of local adaptation to abiotic versus biotic environments. It also examines the latitudinal variation in the strength of the effects of abiotic and biotic environments on fitness. It combines a quantitative meta-analysis of published datasets with a qualitative metasynthesis, which systematically examines the text of those published papers. This mixed-methods approach has not been used in ecology and evolutionary biology but has begun to emerge in other scientific literatures.

Check it out here!

John’s paper on biotic interactions and geographic range limits in press at Evolution

The second chapter of John’s dissertation uses a reciprocal transplant experiment combined with the manipulation of biotic interactions (herbivory and pollination) to examine the extent to which biotic interactions determine fitness inside and beyond the geographic range of Clarkia xantiana. This paper follows up on his previous paper on this topic, which was published in the American Naturalist this year.

Amanda’s paper on adaptation to climate change in press at Oecologia

Amanda Gorton conducted a common garden study in Minnesota of 26 populations of common ragweed spanning a latitudinal range from Minnesota to Louisiana. She was particularly interested in how populations responded to future patterns of rainfall predicted under climate change. She simulated both an increase and decrease in rainfall across her experimental site using rainout shelters (and redistribution of rainfall). Her results have implications for range shifts of populations with climate change. Check out her paper in “early view” at Oecologia!

Amanda and John BOTH receive the prestigious Philip C. Hamm Memorial Scholarship!

Each year, the U. of Minnesota awards the Hamm Memorial Scholarship to one graduate student in the latter phases of their PhD. This is the most prestigious award in the plant sciences at UMN.

This year the committee could not decide between Amanda and John and so awarded the scholarship to both! Incredibly proud of how well rounded each of their accomplishments has been in research, teaching, and outreach/service!

Backyard Science project receives pilot funding!

John, Amanda, and Dave were awarded an Institute on the Environment Mini Grant to pilot a new urban citizen science project, City Backyard Science. The three main areas the project addresses are:

  1. Conservation: How do we increase urban greening, habitat heterogeneity, and biodiversity? (There has been encouraging work showing that small green areas in cities can host diverse native bee communities.)
  2. Community engagement: How do we meaningfully connect communities with science and the natural world?
  3. Urban evolutionary ecology questions such as: Do native plant species show intraspecific variation in adaptation to urban environments? How do urban bee communities differ from rural communities?

The main thrust of the project will be setting up raised beds on the boulevard in front of participants’ homes, and using these “plots” as a widely distributed experiment across multiple neighborhoods in Minneapolis. We will train participants on data collection, and they will help us answer questions about urban pollinator habitat and plant adaptation to urban environments. Because these plots are on the boulevard, we are also able to visit the plots as we wish to weed, check on plants, do pollinator visitation assays, etc. All the households in the pilot year have children ages 5-12, and a significant portion of the project will be about getting them involved and excited about science in their backyard. We’ll post updates as the project progresses!

John receives President’s Student Leadership and Service Award!

John Benning was selected to receive the President’s Student Leadership and Service Award (PSLSA), which recognizes the accomplishments and contributions of outstanding student leaders at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. It is presented to approximately one-tenth of one percent of the student body for their exceptional leadership and service to the University of Minnesota and the surrounding community.