Arizona State University
I have been fascinated by plants, especially cactus plants, since I was 10 years old-- 46 years ago. After a 30 year career teaching high school English and mathematics, I decided to take the set of research questions I had regarding the Cactaceae and make the jump to the Environmental Life Science PhD program at Arizona State University. I am now in my fourth year and recently passed my comps and had my prospectus accepted, advancing to candidacy.
In particular, I have been curious about rare and endangered cacti, the habitat in which they occur, their adaptations to particular soil substrates and soil textures and their unique morphology. In addition to the project I am seeking funding for here, I am carrying out a molecular phylogeny of the genus Mammillaria in Baja California and adjacent regions, in order to better understand my study species, Cochemiea halei, which other studies have shown is nested within Mammillaria. This project will resolve a history of taxonomic confusion surrounding this complex genus of plants. I have become fascinated by the ways geospatial and molecular data can be used to transform conservation biology.
My love for Baja California goes back to my first travels there, 25 years ago. The variety of habitats and landscapes, from Mediterranean to extreme desert to 3000 meter elevation in the mountains to tropical thornscrub in the Cape Region, all within close proximity, and all on an isolated peninsula, create perfect conditions for a high degree of cactus endemism.
The only hurdle now to the successful completion of the research I am carrying out is financial. Even so, the amount of data obtainable via high throughput, Next Generation methods for a relatively low cost is astonishing, compared to what was possible a decade ago. I am thrilled to be part of a new wave of molecular research in plant biology.