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!

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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.

New paper showing latitudinal and elevational gradients in seed predation from an international collaboration

John and Dave participated in an international collaborative experiment testing whether biotic interactions are stronger at low compared to high latitudes. The experiment was conducted from the equator to the arctic and from low to high elevation at each latitude. It is the first coordinated experiment involving real organisms to test this idea dating back to Darwin. The results are published in Science Advances and are also described in a popular article and video.

New paper on species distribution models for the invasive plant, Palmer amaranth

Ryan, Tom, and Dave published a paper in Scientific Reports on species distribution models for Palmer amaranth, one of the most economically costly invasive species in North America. It has rapidly spread across the continent and devastated agriculture along the way. It only reached Minnesota in 2016 and it’s future invasion potential is unknown. In addition to predicting the future range of the species, which has important implications for eradication and management, we also looked back in time throughout its well-documented invasion history to determine if we could predict the eventual extent of its range expansion. Check out the paper to see our findings!

Adam awarded Lake Minnetonka Garden Club Scholarship!

Adam Kostanecki, undergraduate researcher in the lab, was chosen to receive the Lake Minnetonka Garden Club scholarship. He was recognized for his “outstanding application, academic record, commitment to your education and community and your career goals in Botany research and public policy” Congrats Adam! (Gratulacje!)

NSF Speciation and mating system evolution grant funded

The Moeller Lab, in collaboration with Emma Goldberg (UMN EEB) and Yaniv Brandvain (UMN PMB), received four years of funding ($974,762) to investigate the role of mating system transitions in plant speciation. This new funding continues past work that revealed reproductive character displacement between incipient Clarkia species, and provided evidence of reinforcement in secondary sympatry. The new project integrates mathematical modeling, field experimentation, and genomic analysis.

Stephanie successfully defends masters thesis!

Stephanie gave a seminar and defended her masters thesis titled, “History, dispersal limitation, and environment shape the current and future ranges of forest herbs of the Southern Appalachians”. For her thesis, she developed species distribution models for 8 forest herb species, half of which are narrow endemics to the Southern Appalachians. She examined the extent to which their ranges are limited by opportunity (failure of the range to shift north following glaciation) versus adaptation (failure to adapt to environments north of the range). She also examined how each species’ range may shift or contract with climate change. Congrats Stephanie!