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Understanding Biodiversity

Taxonomy of the California Poppies (Eschscholzia)

The genus Eschscholzia contains 18 species native to the western United States, with a third endemic to California. In the past year, two new species of Eschscholzia were described that are native to the deserts of the western United States. Both new taxa, Eschscholzia androuxii and Eschscholzia papastillii are native to California and the latter extends into Arizona. The description of these two taxa shows the importance of collecting and closely analyzing specimens in even well-traveled areas such as the Mojave Desert (Still).

Molecular Phylogeny and Evolution of Oenothera Sect. Calylophus (Onagraceae)

Global biodiversity is declining at increasing and alarming rates as a result of human activities. Moreover, mounting evidence indicates that climate change is shifting the climatic envelopes and geographic distributions for many plant species globally. It is now more important than ever to document biodiversity and develop species-specific management strategies. Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) and associated statistical tools that efficiently sequence and analyze massive amounts of DNA can provide increased support for species delineation and aid conservation initiatives.

Discovering Unknown Diversity of Microlepidopteran Moths in the Genus Mompha

In North America, 45 species of Mompha have been recorded, although additional, undescribed, and cryptic species are likely to exist, as is true for most microlepidopteran groups. The primary food plant preference for most Mompha in North America are members of the Onagraceae (evening primrose family), with additional but fewer Mompha host-specific on members of the Lythraceae and Cistaceae/Rubiaceae.

Studying the Microbiome of Vanilla Orchid Roots

vanilla bean

Vanilla is an economically important crop used for flavoring and fragrances. The vanilla "bean" isn't a bean, it is the fruit of the vanilla orchid. This project is investigating if different cultivation practices influence the associated fungi and bacteria (benefical as well as pathogens) found in the roots of vanilla orchids using NextGen sequencing approaches. The study is being undertaken as part of an international team focused on factors influencing the production of vanilla (Mueller, Johnson, and colleagues).

Pollination in Genus Artocarpus (Moraceae)

The Moraceae family (ca. 1,000 species) includes figs (Ficus), mulberries (Morus), and breadfruit (Artocarpus). Mulberries are wind-pollinated, while figs have one of the most fascinating pollination modes, which is often used as a classic example of coevolution between plants and insecrts. In the obligate mutualism found in all fig species, female fig wasps use the enclosed fig inflorescence as a brood site, laying their eggs in some of the ovules and pollinating others. The offspring hatch and mate inside the fig.

Revision of the Genus Artocarpus (Moraceae)

jackfruit market

With a National Science Foundation grant, the Chicago Botanic Garden is working with international collaborators in Southeast Asia to study the distribution and evolution of an economically important group of plants. With approximately 70 species, Artocarpus is the third largest genus in the plant family that contains figs and mulberries (Moraceae). Artocarpus contains numerous economically important species (grown for timber and fruit) native to Southeast Asia. Two species, jackfruit and breadfruit, are cultivated throughout the tropics.

Fossil Plants in Mongolia


Mongolia has an abundance of fossil deposits that date to the early Cretaceous (approximately 100 to 130 million years ago), when flowering plants first appeared in the fossil record and then rapidly diversified. The fossil record is the best source of evidence to document the origin and early evolution of a group of plants such as the angiosperms. Although much paleontology work has been done in Mongolia searching for dinosaurs, very little paleobotanical field work and research has been undertaken there.

Evolutionary Relationships and Diversity in the Legume Family


The legume family, which includes important crop plants (e.g., beans, peas, and soybeans) and many other economically important species, is the third largest plant family, with approximately 730 genera and 19,400 species found in all parts of the world. In addition to being a source for economically important plants, the family is also important because legumes dominate many tropical ecosystems. An international team of botanists is working to develop a better understanding of the diversity and evolutionary relationships in this important family.

Biodiversity of Symbiotic and Lignin-Degrading Fungi in Seasonal Dry Tropical Forests

Seasonally dry tropical forest systems are globally and regionally threatened by urbanization, land-use change, and climate change, yet they are of high conservation value. As in many systems, there is little knowledge of fungal diversity. Our objectives are to document seasonal baseline data of community composition and diversity of arbuscular communities in three seasonally dry tropical forests of the Yucatan Peninsula. These forests differ in patterns of precipitation. We are also investigating the diversity of lignin-degrading fungi in the Yucatan, Mexico.

Biodiversity, Biogeography, and Conservation of Cantharellacae

chanterelle mushroom

Cantharellacae includes choice edible fungi such as chanterelles and trumpet fungi. They also are important beneficial symbionts of forest trees. Many species in the group are listed as threatened and endangered in countries that list fungi. Activities in 2014 focused on completing work on documenting the diversity of the group in the Chicago region. DNA analyses confirmed the occurrence of an undescribed species in the yellow chanterelle group.


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