Adjunct professor, Biological Sciences, Northwestern University
- Restoration Genetics
- Gene-flow and Pollination
- Genetic Provenance
- Rare and Threatened Species
- Plant Hybridization
- Conservation of Genetic Diversity
Restoration Genetics: Choosing "genetically appropriate material" for restoration has become an important aim of many restorations. I study the genetic, demographic, and community factors that might influence restoration success in a number of species:
- Pitcher's thistle (Cirsium pitcheri)—Kayri Havens, Pati Vitt, and I have compiled more than ten years of genetic data in restored and native populations of Cirsium pitcheri, a federally listed endangered species.
- Hill's thistle (Cirsium hillii)—With the help of Plants of Concern volunteers, we have been monitoring populations in the Chicago area for more than ten years. We have established new genetically diverse restorations that are monitoring their success.
- Wooly milkweed (Asclepias lanuginosa)—Genetic work by Eun Sun Kim (University of Illinois, Chicago, Ph.D, student) has established that clonal growth is limiting reproduction in this rare species and restoration is now being installed to see if we can improve sexual reproduction in this species.
- Golden paintbrush (Castilleja levisecta)—Restorations of golden paintbrush populations are ongoing in both Washington and Oregon. Andrea Kramer and I are working with Tom Kaye (Institute of Applied Ecology) and Peter Dunwiddie (University of Washington), looking into genetic changes that occur when a rare plant is brought into production for restoration purposes.
Genetics and Pollinators: The success and diversity of flowering plants is attributed in part to animal pollination. The genetic contribution of different pollinator guilds will vary through maternal fitness (number of seed sired), paternal fitness (number of fathers and distance of fathers) and connectivity between isolated populations. I am interested in the role pollinators play in driving the genetic structure of plant populations.
- The shift from bee to bird pollination—Investigating the underlying mechanisms that drive floral color polymorphism in Castilleja coccinea and Penstemon spp.
- Hawkmoth pollination—Together with Krissa Skogen, we are looking at the role hawkmoth pollinations in Castilleja sessiliflora and Oenothera harringtonii play in determining the population structure of these species.
- Pollen quality—Together with Krissa Skogen and Kathleen Kay (University of California, Santa Cruz), we are using exclusion experiments to compare the genetic differences in pollen quality of different guilds of pollinators in Oenothera harringtonii and Clarkia breweri.
Hybridization: Working with a number of collaborators, we are investigating the potential threat of hybridization to populations of rare species, including Lantana depressa in Florida (Joyce Maschinski) and Lespedeza leptostachya in Minnesota (Alona Banai), as well as the role hybridization might be playing in Phragmites australis invasion in the Chicago area (Dan Larkin)
Identifying early seral species for restoration in Colorado Plateau: (CARICE)
Together with Andrea Kramer, Ph.D., Dan Larkin, Ph.D., and Krissa Skogen, Ph.D., we are investigating plant genetic, demographic, and community dynamics in intact and restored habitats to guide effective and efficient restoration in the western United States. We aim to help identify appropriate native plant materials to facilitate the enhancement, recovery, and/or restoration of landscapes throughout the region, as well as developing methodologies that ensure the establishment and persistence of restored native plant habitats.
Fant, J.B., A.T. Kramer , E. Sirkin, and K. Havens (2013) Genetics of reintroduced populations of the narrowly endemic thistle, Cirsium pitcheri (Asteraceae). Botany 91 (5) 301-308).
Ribbens E., B.A Anderson., and J. Fant (2011) Opuntia fragilis (Nuttall) Haworth in Illinois: Pad Dynamics and Sexual Reproduction Haseltonia, 16(1):67-78. 2011.
Fant, J.B., R.M. Holmstrom*, E. Sirkin, J.R. Etterson, and S. Masi, S (2008) Genetic structure of threatened native populations and propagules used for restoration in a clonal species Ammophila breviligulata (American beachgrass). Restoration Ecology 16(4):594-603.
Fant, J.B., Susanne Masi, J.M. Keller, and R. Mann* (2007) Investigating the reproductive health of Hill's thistle (Cirsium hillii) populations in the Chicago Region. Chicago Wilderness Journal 5(1).
Gene flow and Pollination:
Ksiazek, K*., J. B. Fant, and K. Skogen (2012) An assessment of pollen limitation on Chicago green roofs. Landscape and Urban Planning. 107 (4) 401-408.
Tonietto R*, J. Fant, J Ascher, K. Ellis*, and D Larkin (2011) A comparison of bee communities of Chicago green roofs, parks and prairies. Landscape and Urban Planning 103: 102– 108.
Kramer, A.T. *, J.B. Fant, and M. Ashley (2011) Influences of landscape and pollinators on population genetic structure: Examples from three Penstemon (Plantaginaceae) species in the Great Basin. American Journal of Botany 98(1): 109–121.
Fant, J. B., A. Banai*, K. Havens, and P. Vitt (2010) Hybridization between the threatened plant, Lespedeza leptostachya Englem. and its co-occurring congener Lespedeza capitata Michx.: morphological and molecular evidence. Conservation Genetics. Online early.
Maschinski J., E. Sirkin, and J.B. Fant (2010) Using genetic and morphological analysis to distinguish endangered taxa from their hybrids with the cultivated exotic pest plant Lantana strigocamara (syn: Lantana camara). Conservation Genetics. Online early.
Fant, J.B. and C.D. Preston (2004) Genetic structure and morphological variation of British populations of the hybrid Potamogeton x salicifolius Wolfg. Bot. J. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 144(1):99-112.
*Denotes student authors
Scent, Pollinators, Predators, and Floral Diversity in Evening Primrose group
Onagraceae, particularly species in tribe Onagreae, produce a floral scent that drives the biological interactions that impact plant fitness (fruit and seed production), including attracting legitimate pollinators (hawkmoths, bees) as well as floral and seed predators (Mompha moths). This scent, in turn, is used by these species to locate host plants to lay their eggs, which thereby impacts their reproductive fitness. Krissa Skogen, Norman Wickett, and I will be integrating chemical ecology and comparative genomics to explore the impact of past selective pressures on current patterns of diversity in these nonmodel organisms: evening primroses, hawkmoths, and micromoths. This is part of a National Science Foundation-funded Dimensions in Biodiversity grant —“Landscapes of Linalool: Scent-Mediated Diversification of Flowers and Moths across Western North America” — which is working in collabortation with other scientists at Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada, Amherst College, Colorado College, Cornell University, Oberlin College, Smithsonian Institution, University of California at Santa Cruz, and the University of Illinois at Champagne-Urbana.
Conservation and Restoration in a Changing Environment
In the arid environments of the western United States over one-third of the habitat in the region has been degraded by invasive species and changes in fire regimes. There is a great need to learn more about how to effectively restore these ecosystems. Some of the questions our research comprises include: 1) What are the ecosystem services most at risk from climate change and/or invasive species? 2) What are "appropriate" sources of plant material to use in restoration; i.e. how far can seed be moved without having negative effects on restoration outcomes, 3) What are the best management practices to meet restoration goals and 4) How to restore ecosystem functions in these degraded areas in the face of a changing environment. This website provides information about ongoing projects with other Garden scientists, Dan Larkin, Krissa Skogen, Andrea Kramer, and Emily Yates, and Northwestern University students.
Restoration of Cirsium pitcheri
Pitcher's thistle was extirpated from the Illinois shoreline of Lake Michigan in the early 1900s. It was reintroduced in former habitat at Illinois Beach State Park in 1991. Reintroduction of rare plant species is an emerging science that remains in its infancy, and little information is available to guide restoration design or the quantitative analysis of restoration success. Working in collaboration with scientists at Chicago State University, East Carolina University, The Morton Arboretum, and the U.S. Geological Survey, we are studying the demographic and genetic changes in the reintroduction of pitcher's thistle (Cirsium pitcheri) to help us define and measure success.