February 2 2015

11:00 158 Hershey Hall

Nancy Emery
Department of Biological Sciences, Purdue University

Plant Adaptation and Ecological Specialization in Variable Environments


Species exhibit a diversity of adaptations for persisting in variable environments. At one extreme, organisms may specialize on a subset of the conditions that are available to them; at the other, they may exhibit highly plastic phenotypes that allow them to use a broad range of habitats or resources. Research in my lab investigates the ecological and evolutionary drivers of niche evolution in plant lineages that occupy heterogeneous environments, with the goal of identifying the processes that drive ecological specialization. In this seminar, I will present our research on the evolution of habitat associations in Lasthenia, an ecologically diverse clade of herbaceous plants that is largely endemic to California, and includes several lineages that are restricted to specific microhabitats within vernal pool wetlands. Using field and greenhouse experiments that are embedded within a phylogenetic context, we have learned that competitive interactions play a key role in shaping fine-scale distribution patterns and maintaining similar habitat affinities in closely related lineages. Our ongoing work aims to understand the evolution of phenotypic plasticity in response to hydrological variability of vernal pool wetlands, and the role of dispersal trait evolution in shaping patterns of gene flow and adaptation. Taken together, the results of this research advance a basic understanding of how organisms respond to environmental variability, while informing conservation and management strategies for narrowly restricted plant species.











































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































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