Evolution of Promiscuity in Angiosperms

Monrovia, California
BiologyEcology
Open Access
$8,756
Raised of $20,000 Goal
44%
Ended on 11/14/13
Campaign Ended
  • $8,756
    pledged
  • 44%
    funded
  • Finished
    on 11/14/13

About This Project

The proposed assessment of factors promoting biodiversity in this group of at-risk alpine plants is warranted, especially given a warming climate scenario in which time to adapt may be limited. In gathering information on how Global Climate Change has effected the evolution of this group, this research is a fundamental component of a revised and synthesized understanding of the necessary steps toward sustainability in the future. Believe in the power of the crowd and consider any pledge!

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What is the context of this research?

I am studying evolutionary relationships and ecological niche differentiation (movement into new habitats) for a group of alpine and sub-alpine plants that occur in a disjunct (widely separated by areas unoccupied by the plants) distribution between Eastern Asia and North America. The majority of the species diversity appears to be in western North America, but very little is known about foreign counterparts where I intend also to do research.

I want to characterize the habitat of many of the species that I am currently describing as new to science (at least 8 in California alone), and project a model of this habitat into past climate regimes (Last Glacial Maximum) to better understand how these plants have moved around through time and space. Did I mention these plants may have hybridized quite a bit while running away from Glaciers and Deserts in relatively recent history? The morphology (form) and their well documented history of polyploidy (abnormal chromosomal duplication) tell it all... Did this help them survive rapid climate change?

What is the significance of this project?

I love the alpine zone and its cryptic diversity. It is the final frontier of botany, and somebody has to figure out where these plants are going to go if the climate gets warmer, because it sure isn't going to be UPHILL when these plants are already restricted to the top!

I have selected a group of primarily alpine and sub-alpine plants that may be imperiled in a warming climate situation. Do many of the species have a chance to survive if we don't help them in some way? This is unclear, but accessing the sites where these plants occur makes tough work on its own as they often occur above 12,000 ft, and require several day backpacking expeditions and climbing rocks to access populations during only the early spring months. In combination with visiting sites across the breadth of the range of Claytonia (Spring Beauties) in Eastern Asia and North America, it is a challenging but rewarding project.

Understanding where we have come from gives us a better understanding of how we make our next steps toward sustainability. In a warming climate, plants near the tops of our highest peaks have been shown to be the most at risk. We must characterize the diversity in our own backyard if we have plans to live in a future world that looks anything like it does today! To better understand evolution and evolutionary processes, we must also look to the past. Has hybridization been intricately linked to the success of flowering plants through their history from the time of their origin?

What are the goals of the project?

All donations will be tax-deductible as Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden will be the financial receiver. Believe in the power of the crowd and consider a $10 pledge to get a color reprint of a new journal issue from Aliso which contains my most recent publication: Discovery of Claytonia lanceolata var. peirsonii in the San Bernardino Mountains Perpetuates a History of Taxonomic Uncertainty. This manuscript summarizes the premise for this study of the Claytonia lanceolata species complex and has some interesting information on new discoveries in the group.

Funds will facilitate innovative, highly trans-disciplinary and collaborative research at multiple institutions, combining cutting edge DNA Sequencing technology ("Next Generation Sequencing") with Fluorescent In-Situ Hybridization (painting chromosomes like tube socks) and niche modeling (characterizing habitat use). These data will be used to better understand the long history of hybridization, specialization, speciation, and possibly extinction in a group of plants primarily restricted to alpine and sub-alpine habitats in both the Old and New Worlds.

In addition to color reprints, See here for how you can help name a new species for a $3000 pledge if the project meets its goal!

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Funds will facilitate use of cutting edge DNA Sequencing technology ("Next Generation Sequencing") utilizing a RAD-Seq approach in order to better understand evolutionary relationships in this group. I will then use these data to design probes and following up with use of Fluorescent In-Situ Hybridization techniques (painting chromosomes like tube socks) to illuminate patterns of hybridization. Funds will also support necessary field work in Siberia as well as Eastern and Western North America associated with data collection for niche modeling (characterizing habitat use).

Endorsed by

I am happy to endorse the project of Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden / Claremont Graduate University Ph.D. student Tommy Stoughton. He has latched on to an intriguing problem regarding the origin and nature of high elevation plants in southern California. As he points out, these plants are likely to be seriously impacted by climate change as they have no where to go but down and that is not likely to be where they will find suitable habitat. Who cares? Each biological species on Earth holds unique information about how to be a living organism on our Planet. As sentient and allegedly sapient beings, it is our responsibility to document and understand the living organisms that share Earth with us. Tommy's results will help us to devise and implement suitable management plans for the plants and other organisms that occupy these very special places.
Thomas is a very enthusiastic and motivated systematist and field botanist. As seen in his studies of Claytonia and Boechera, he continues to take on even the most difficult of taxonomic conundrums without falter, and is certainly up for a challenge. His work on the Claytonia lanceolata complex in California alone has helped confirm the taxonomic distinctiveness of Peirson’s spring beauty (Claytonia lanceolata var. peirsonii), a rare subalpine plant that is threatened by recreational activities and proposed ski area expansion. Without Thomas’s work on this group, the plant was previously in a holding place for receiving protections under California state laws, but is now making its way to the forefront of environmental concern. Thomas’s strong dedication and goals have had a serious impact towards the conservation of this plant. I am confident that, given the opportunity, his studies on the evolutionary relationships and ecological niche differentiation of alpine plants will not only be rewarding in potentially discovering new species, but will give us the insight we need to move forward with the effective management of rare plants in a rapidly changing climate.

Meet the Team

Thomas Stoughton
Thomas Stoughton
Ph.D. Student

Affiliates

B.A. in Environmental Studies, University of Redlands, California

Ph.D. Student in Botany, Claremont Graduate University, California

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Team Bio

Want to see a bunch of gratuitous plant pics?! Check out my website and click the link to my pictures on CalPhotos (About Me) as well as some other local problems I'm working on (Current Projects)!

Claytonia.org

I've worked with rare plants for many years, beginning as a technician for the US Forest Service. I am passionate about alpine botany, particularly in the Desert Southwest, where the bulk of my research focus has been thus far. My experience hiking through the years and my background in athletics, taken in combination with an attention to details of ecology and both micro- and macro-morphological characters of habitat specialists, make me well suited for the extremely strenuous work associated with alpine botany. Biodiversity is ultimately what I am interested in recognizing and protecting, informed by a better understanding of the origin of novelty and rarity in this group. Not to mention that the watermelon tastes better when you're above the inversion layer!

Thomas Stoughton

Want to see a bunch of gratuitous plant pics?! Check out my website and click the link to my pictures on CalPhotos as well as some other local problems I'm working on (Current Projects)!
Claytonia.org
I've worked with rare plants for many years, beginning as a technician for the US Forest Service. I am passionate about alpine botany, particularly in the Desert Southwest, where the bulk of my research focus has been thus far. My experience hiking through the years and my background in athletics (swimming and water polo), taken in combination with an attention to details of ecology and both micro- and macro-morphological characters of habitat specialists, make me well suited for the extremely strenuous work associated with alpine botany. Biodiversity is ultimately what I am interested in recognizing and protecting, informed by a better understanding of the origin of novelty and rarity in this group. Not to mention that the watermelon tastes better when you're above the inversion layer!

Press and Media



Additional Information

My Claytonia chromosomes could look like the ones in this awesome study: www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/01/05/1112041109
My proposed Next Generation Sequencing approach, a RAD-Seq 'double digest': http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.13...

All taxa (A-H below) are currently treated as one species with no varieties (Claytonia lanceolata) despite the discontinuity of morphological traits of plants distributed across California and throughout the western states of the U.S. Preliminary molecular work (below this figure) suggests that tuberous perennials in California are not all closely related. Collecting additional data using NGS technology will allow for a more thorough comparison of populations and species in this group and may provide useful tools for other closely related plants such as Cactaceae (Cactus family) and Caryophyllaceae (Carnation family) in future studies.

(above) The Claytonia lanceolata complex in California. In northern California, (A) Claytonia lanceolata Pursh on granite, (B) alternate-leaved and undescribed C. “serpenticola” on ultramafic rocks, and (C) an unrecognized taxon on greywacke (a type of sedimentary rock) that fits the description of C. obovata Rydberg, previously unsampled in any phylogenetic study. In southern California, (D-H) The Claytonia “peirsonii” complex, with (D) var. “peirsonii” on granite in the San Gabriel Mountains near the type locality of C. lanceolata var. peirsonii Munz & Jtn. New discoveries in this complex within a species complex include (E) the long-petioled C. “peirsonii” var. “panamintense” in the Panamint Mountains of Death Valley National Park on dolomite, (F) light pink-flowered var. “yorkii” on volcanic tuff in the southern Sierra Nevada, and two variants in the San Bernardino Mountains on (G) grey and (H) white dolomite at Furnace Canyon and Bertha ridge respectively.


(above) Relationships among the tuberous perennial Claytonia based upon the internal transcribed spacers associated with the nuclear ribosomal gene, 5.8S. Note the position of Claytonia lanceolata sensu stricto in red, relative to other taxa currently treated also as C. lanceolata that are highlighted in other colors. Putatively, eight taxa can be recognized in California as currently subsumed under the broad circumscription of C. lanceolata. Evidence suggests our current, morphologically-based concept of C. lanceolata does not reflect actual evolutionary relationships based upon molecular genetics, and that more evidence is needed to determine what factors have contributed to this confusing story!

PUBLICATIONS!
Stoughton, T.R., C.R. Robins, M.D. Windham and F.W. Li. In prep. Pleistocene Biogeography of two hybrid Boechera (Brassicaceae) from the San Bernardino Mountains, Southern California.
Stoughton, T.R. and D.D. Jolles. 2013. Discovery of Claytonia lanceolata var. peirsonii in the San Bernardino Mountains Perpetuates a History of Taxonomic Uncertainty. Aliso 31, pp. 35-42.
Fraga, N.S., L.J. Gross, D.S. Bell, O.J. Mistretta, J.M. Wood and T.R. Stoughton. 2013. The Vascular Flora of the Upper Santa Ana River Watershed, San Bernardino Mountains, California. Crossosoma 37, pp. 9-111.

FUN ARTICLES!
http://www.pe.com/local-news/riverside-county/riverside/riverside-headlines-index/20110617-inland-native-plants-seed-harvest-under-way.ece
http://www.rsabg.org/garden-news1/568-seeds-of-success

Project Backers

  • 33Backers
  • 44%Funded
  • $8,756Total Donations
  • $159.27Average Donation
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