Plant Systematics, Conservation Biology, and Ethnobotany


Rosa del C. Ortiz, Ph.D.

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Rosa del C. Ortiz, Ph.D.

Curatorial Assistant
Science & Conservation Division

Cynthia Hong-Wa, Ph.D.
Claude E. Phillips Herbarium, Delaware State University

Research Interests

• Evolution and systematics of Menispermaceae
• Neotropical floristics
• Flora of Madagascar

Studies in Malagasy Menispermaceae, a multivariate analysis of Burasaia madagascariensis. Dr. Ortiz is an expert in floristics, taxonomy, and phylogenetic relationships of the Menispermaceae (moonseed family), and Dr. Hong-Wa is an expert in species delimitation, taxonomic revision, and the flora of Madagascar. The Menispermaceae are a family of mostly dioecious climbers that are distributed in the tropical regions of the World. Suprageneric phylogenetic relationships are better understood, however in several clades, species level taxonomy is still unresolved. One of the challenges in working with the Menispermaceae is their dioecy (i.e., staminate and pistillate flowers in separate plants) as it becomes difficult to comparatively study staminate, pistillate and fruiting material that are unevenly represented across taxa in herbarium collections. Burasaia is one of the Menispermaceae genera endemic to Madagascar that is characterized by an arborescent habit rather than the most common climbing habit. Preliminary studies indicate that there are at least five species within the genus, of which Burasaia madagascariensis is the most widespread. It is found across different bioclimatic zones and as such encompasses a broad phenotypic variation. This study will evaluate patterns of morphological variation of B. madagascariensis and if/how that variation correlates with ecological factors as represented by the different climate clusters distinguished in the country. The participant student will be trained in plant taxonomy based on the study of herbarium specimens, which includes taking measurements of morphological features, performing multivariate analyses, and writing descriptions for the taxonomic entities recovered in the analyses. The student will co-author a resulting publication using information gathered during this project.

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