Systematics and Phylogenetics

Research in my lab has extensively studied the systematics of various groups within Malvaceae. Although this is not currently an active area of research, I can act as a co-advisor or an informal mentor. Some particular focal groups have been the following:

The genus Adansonia

I did my dissertation on the pollination biology and systematics of baobabs and have returned periodically to learn more about these charismatic organisms. Recently, this work has been a collaboration with former graduate student, Nisa Karimi. Here are our more recent papers on Adansonia:

Karimi, N., BaumDA., Razanamaro, O. H., Léong Pock Tsy, J. M., and Danthu, P. (2022) Malvaceae (Bombacoideae), Adansonia, baobab, bozy, fony, renala, ringy, za. In: Goodman, S. M. (ed.), The new natural history of Madagascar. Princeton, Princeton University Press.

Karimi, N., Grover, C. E., Gallagher, J. P., Conover, J. L., Miller, E. R., Wendel, J. F., and BaumDA. (2022). Genetic diversity of Malagasy baobabs: implications for conservationAdansonia 44: 37-47.

Karimi, N., Saghafi, S., Keefover-Ring, K., Venter, S. M., and Baum, D. A. (2021). Evidence for hawkmoth pollination in the chiropterophilous African baobab (Adansonia digitata). Biotropica 2021;00:1–12.

Karimi,  N., Grover, C. E., Ané, C., Gallagher, J. P., Wendel, J. P., and Baum, D. A. 2020. Reticulate evolution helps explain apparent homoplasy in floral biology and pollination in baobabs (Adansonia; Bombacoideae; Malvaceae). Systematic Biology 69(3): 462–478.

Venter, S., Glennon, K. Witkowski, E. Baum, D. A., Cron, G., Tivakudze, R., and Karimi N. 2017. Baobabs (Adansonia digitata L.) are self-incompatible and ‘male’ trees can produce fruit if hand-pollinated. South African Journal of Botany.

Cron, G. V., Karimi, N., Glennon K. L., Chukwudi, U., Witkowski, E. T. F., Venter, S. M., Assogbadjo, A. E. and Baum, D. A. 2016. One African baobab species or two? Synonymy of Adansonia kilima and A. digitata. Taxon 65: 1037–1049.

Rangan H., Bell, K. L., Baum, D. A., Fowler, R., McConvell, P., Saunders, T., Spronck, S., Kull, C. A., and Murphy, D. J.  2015. New genetic and linguistic analyses show ancient human influence on baobab evolution and distribution in Australia. PLoS ONE 10(4): e0119758.

Other groups of Malvaceae:

Bombacoideae: Over the years we have published a number of papers on the broad scale phylogeny of Malvaceae, with a special focus on the bombacoid clade. Historically this work was lead by a former post-doc and collaborator, Bil Alverson. Another former post-doc Maria von Balthazar studied floral development in the group.

Malvoideae: Former graduate student Maggie Koopman (now Hanes) studied the phylogeny of Malagasy Malvoideae, with a focus on Hibiscus Maggie continues this work in her own lab at Eastern Michigan University.

Byttnerioideae: Former graduate student Barbara Whitlock, now with her own lab at Miami University, studies the phylogeny of the Byttnerioideae clade, which includes the source of chocolate (Theobroma).

Durioneae: Former post-doc Reto Nyffeler, now a curator at the Institut für Systematische und Evolutionäre Botanik in Zurich, studied the phylogeny and evolution of the clade that includes the famous (and famously stink) durian fruit.

Some other plant evolution/systematics projects

Thalictrum (Ranunculaceae). Former post-doc Veronica Di Stilio explored the genetics of sexual dimorphism in dioecious meadowrues. Since then she has done further work on the phylogeny and petal identity in the group as a professor at the University of Washington, Seattle. More recently, my graduate student, Melody Sain, has started using genomic analysis to home in on sex-determining regions to evaluate whether the two independent origins of dioecy in the genus utilized similar genetic mechanisms.

Iochroma (Solanaceae). Studied by former graduate student Stacey Smith, who continues to study this group in her own laboratory at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Scaevola (Goodeniaceae). Studied by former graduate student, Dianella Howarth, who continues to work on Goodeniaceae and related families as a professor at St. John’s University.

Euphorbia (Euphorbiaceae). Studied by former graduate student Ivalú Cacho, now a professor at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).