Here are a few of the things I am currently working on for my Postdoc at UConn.
1. The genetic basis of trait variation in P. scabrum
P. scabrum is a widespread species of Pelargonium, which occurs across broad environmental gradients. Using seed collected from more than 25 populations, I am establishing a ‘common garden’ of this species at UConn. It displays incredible morphological variation in the field, and I am hoping to examine to what extent the variation we see in the field is due to genetic differentiation vs adaptive plasticity.
2. Reconstructing ancestral states and climates
If climatic gradients have played a role in the diversification of Pelargonium, we should be able to detect shifts in diversification rates in conjunction with shift in traits and climatic niches. I am hoping to use ancestral reconstructions to investigate this. In particular, I am interested in how the evolution of the variety of growth forms we see in Pelargonium might have influences its diversification in response to climate, as well as the evolution of leaf trait variation.
3. Measuring long term trends in microenvironmental variation across Connecticut forests
In conjunction with James Mickley, I am beginning to explore patterns of microenevironmental variation across broad geographic scales within New England forests. There is currently a major shortage of climatic data of any kind from within forests across broad spatial scales. This data is fundamental if we want to understand future responses to climate change. With James, we are leveraging the power of EMUs to measure microenvironmental data from a number of forests in Connecticut. We hope to use this data to generate interpolated microenvironmental climate layers for forests in Connecticut, and compare these data to data derived from weather stations and interpolations based on weather station data. We expect that our EMU data will be far more representative of what is happening in forests, giving us clues to how these valuable systems may change in the future.