Elizabeth Kempton

I am interested in examination of genetic variation at many levels (from population genetics to phylogenetics), examination of the distribution of plant life throughout the landscape (phylogeography and biogeography), and evolutionary theories associated with differentiation of character structure and form amongst lineages due to ecological interactions. I am also interested in the applications of GIS (Geographic Information Systems) to phylogenetic issues, as well learning about its use in conservation and management of rare plants and unique habitats.

Currently I am just getting my thesis project started concerning the systematics of Polygoncaeae subfamily Erigonoideae (wild buckwheat). As Eriogonoideae contains many closely related taxa, and many rare species, proper classification of varieties, subspecies, and genera within this group are important in terms of conservation. My aim is to assess the taxonomic classification and organization of this subfamily. The basis for taxonomic boundaries within Eriogonoideae will be investigated in a phylogenetic (evolutionary) framework by the use comparative data (morphological, anatomical and molecular) to support or redefine the units of diversity within the subfamily.

Subfamily Eriogonoideae is currently organized into 20 genera based on morphological evidence. Most of the species are grouped in Eriogonum (250 species) and Chorizanthe (50), others are segregated into much smaller groups: Pterostegia (1), Hollisteria (1) Lastarriaea (3), Aristocapsa (1), Mucronea (2), Systenotheca (1), Centrostegia (1), Dodecahema (1), Dedeckera (1), Stenogonum (2), Nemacaulis (1), Gilmania (1) Johanneshowellia (2), Goodmania (1), Sidotheca (3), Oxytheca (3), Acanthoscyphus (1), and Hardfordia (1). For more information regarding the taxonomic organization of subfamily Eriogonoideae please see the current treatment at: http://www.life.umd.edu/emeritus/reveal/pbio/eriog/key.html (by J.L. Reveal).

This field season I plan to collect several taxa in the southern California area representative of currently recognized genera and morphological groups. For the next phase of this project I will attempt to obtain a more geographically representative sample of the morphological groups within Eriogonoideae throughout its distribution. The goal of this project will be to: (1) discover or identify additional characters within the subfamily to use for phylogenetic analysis, (2) utilize molecular methods to estimate the genetic relationships amongst members of Eriogonoideae, and (3) identify any additional taxonomic groups that can be segregated (or combined with existing segregates) and supported with molecular, morphological and anatomical evidence.