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Research Projects

Our research is centered on the processes and patterns involved in the evolution and diversification of plants, especially the monocots. We use a phylogenetic framework to test hypotheses of morphological evolution and to analyze temporal and spatial patterns of plant speciation and diversification. The use of systematics in comparative biology is emphasized. Areas of focus are on the evolution of development, comparative genomics and the genetics of interspecies interactions, and trait evolution —  in particular traits associated with adaptive changes impacting plant diversity.  Students joining the lab develop their own independent research, supported by communal expertise in plant systematics, phylogenomics, morphology, evolutionary biology, comparative phylogenetics, and developmental evolutionary genetics.

Current projects include:

  • Floral development and evolution in the tropical monocot order Zingiberales
  • Phylogenetics, species-level systematics, and evolution of Monocot lineages, including the tropical ginger order (Zingiberales), Heliconia (Zingiberales), Costus (Costaceae), Bomarea (Alstroemeriaceae), Calochortus (Liliaceae), and California Allium
  • Population genetics and phylogeography of mexican and californian plant lineages (e.g. NolinaDioon (cycadales), Calochortus)
  • Development of Comparative Analysis Software and Visualization (
  • Phylogenetics and trait evolution in Calochortus (Adriana Hernandez)
  • Inflorescence evolution: the Umbel (Jesús Martinez-Gomez)
  • Evolution of tuber development and diversification in the Liliales (Carrie Tribble – UC Berkeley)
  • Evolution of bird and bee pollination systems in Costus (with CSU-East Bay professor Ana Almeida and Eugenio Valderrama)
  • Evolution of fusion in flowers of the Zingiberales (Heather Phillips)
  • Evolution phyllotaxy with Costus as a model system (Clarice Guan)
  • Evolution of symbiotic relationships across the cycad genus Zamia (Shayla Salzman)
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