Elizabeth Friar

Research Interests

My research interests are in understanding the molecular evolutionary mechanisms and processes underlying differential adaptation to diverse ecological habitats and speciation. My interests in plant systematics lie mostly at the species level, i.e., in the relationships within closely related species groups, or in cases of incipient speciation. The goal from this part of my research program is to investigate role of genetic change across species boundaries, including mechanisms of speciation, the genetic basis of ecological adaptation, the role of biogeography and/or ecological adaptation in shaping population structure, and factors which may promote rapid speciation. I have also become interested in the role of long distance dispersal in speciation and the evolution of plant breeding systems. My primary study group for this purpose is the Hawaiian silversword alliance.

I, along with my collaborators, am currently working on a project to understand the genetic bases of ecological diversification in the eight very closely related species of section Railliardia of the genus Dubautia. We are taking an explicitly integrative approach to this project; collecting microsatellite, putatively neutral gene sequence, candidate gene sequence, anatomical, morphological, and developmental data sets from a parallel set of collections at the population level. As part of this project, we will explore methods for data combination and integration to develop a more synthetic picture of evolution in this group of species. We will also be using population genetic and coalescent analytical methods to examine evolutionary processes at the species boundary, including tests of selective neutrality for the candidate loci.