Pressures of development, particularly in tropical countries, are causing an alarming increase in the rate of species extinction, making the current resurgence in systematics especially timely. Given the reasonable estimate that systematists have only discovered and named perhaps 10% of the species on earth, and the fact that only a tiny fraction of those species have been studied in any detail, there is much work to be done in a short time. Many species will go extinct before we even know them; it is no wonder that systematists feel as though they are watching a huge, diverse library burn down before a card catalog has been prepared (or before anyone has read even 1% of the books!). Newly developed methods for data gathering and analysis of phylogenetic relationships position us on the threshold of a deep understanding of the history of the biological world. Loss of biological diversity is thus a disaster, both from an economic standpoint (How many organisms useful for food, medicine, or technology will go extinct?) and from a broader intellectual standpoint (How did the diversity of species come to be the way it is?).

Chicita Culberson, Ph.D.

Research Scientist, Senior

I am interested in the systematics and ecology of lichen-forming fungi, including their natural product chemistry, evolution, habitat relationships, and the geography of sibling species and chemical races. I use thin-layer chromatography and high-performance liquid chromatography to identify new natural products, analyze qualitative and quantitative secondary product chemistries under natural and experimental conditions and assess gene flow in natural populations with secondary products... Full Profile »

Clifford W. Cunningham

Professor in the Department of Biology

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Francois M. Lutzoni

Professor in the Department of Biology

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Paul S. Manos

Jack H. Neely Professor of Biology

My research emphasizes woody plants, especially the systematics of Fagaceae (the oak family), Juglandaceae (the walnut family), and related wind-pollinated families of flowering plants. I generally use DNA sequences to generate hypotheses of phylogenetic relationship for inferring morphological character evolution, analyzing patterns of biogeography, and revising classification. Students in my lab have studied the systematics and diversification of the following angiosperm families:... Full Profile »

John M. Mercer

Associate Professor of the Practice in the Department of Biology

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Kathleen M. Pryer

Professor in the Department of Biology

My research focuses on understanding the evolutionary relationships of ancient land plants, especially ferns and horsetails, by integrating evidence from morphology, molecules (DNA sequence data from multiple genes), and the fossil record. I use an explicit phylogenetic framework to examine the morphological evolution of various sporophytic and gametophytic characters within vascular plants, and to gain insight into the evolution of various life history traits and the body plans that typify... Full Profile »

V. Louise Roth

Professor in the Department of Biology

In addition to conceptual work on the biological bases of homology, variation, and parallel evolution, my research has focused on evolutionary changes in size and shape in mammals: the functional consequences of these changes, and the evolutionary modifications of ontogenetic processes that produce them. This work makes use of DNA sequences, morphometric data, and geographic distributions to study macroevolutionary changes within a phylogenetic context. Projects have included DNA sequence... Full Profile »

Richard B. Searles

Professor Emeritus of Botany

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A. Jonathan Shaw

Professor of Biology

My research centers on the evolution and diversity of bryophytes. Current projects in the lab include molecular phylogenetic analyses of familial and ordinal level relationships in the arthrodontous mosses, studies of hybridization using molecular and morphological markers, and investigations of cryptic speciation within geographically widespread species... Full Profile »

Rytas J. Vilgalys

Professor of Biology

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Richard A. White

University Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Botany

Studies in my laboratory are focused on the development and systematic anatomy/morphology of vascular plants, especially pteridophytes. Research activity is primarily concerned with the patterns of initiation, differentiation and maturation of vascular tissues in shoots of ferns, and their bearing on concepts of vascular organization. In particular, we... Full Profile »

Robert L. Wilbur

Professor Emeritus of Biology

I have concentrated my research efforts in the floras of the southeastern United States and Central America. In Costa Rica I have been involved in a floristic study of the plants in the rain forest at the Organization for Tropical Studies Research Station at La Selva. Taxa of particular interest are the tropical Campanulaceae and the Central American species of... Full Profile »

Anne Daphne Yoder

Professor of Biology

My work integrates field inventory activities with molecular phylogenetic techniques and geospatial analysis to investigate Madagascar, an area of the world that is biologically complex, poorly understood, and urgently threatened. Madagascar has been designated as one of the most critical geographic priorities for conservation action, retaining less than 10% of the natural habitats that existed before human colonization. It is critical that information be obtained as quickly as possible to... Full Profile »