Plant Systematics, Conservation Biology, and Ethnobotany


Matthew Austin, Ph.D.

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Matthew Austin, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow
Living Earth Collaborative – Washington University

Research Interests

• Pollination ecology
• Global change biology
• Biodiversity conservation

Investigating the fitness effects of novel species interactions: Does interspecific pollen transfer reduce seed set? Austin is a postdoctoral fellow with the Living Earth Collaborative, whose research focuses on how plant-pollinator communities respond to environmental variability. Across taxa, global change is altering the timing of life history events (i.e., phenology). For example, climate change is altering the time of year in which plant species bloom, with certain species flowering earlier, others flowering later, and many increasing the duration of their flowering period. These phenology shifts, in effect, create the potential for novel interactions between species that have historically been isolated due to partitioned flowering times, but now exhibit sympatric flowering overlap. Interspecific pollen transfer is one such interaction that may be induced by novel periods of sympatric flowering overlap; however, we lack a comprehensive understanding of what the fitness consequences of interspecific pollen transfer are. This study will test the hypothesis that interspecific pollen transfer reduces seed set. The student will conduct a hand pollination experiment at Shaw Nature Reserve with species within the genus Penstemon, which have exhibited flowering phenology shifts in the greater St. Louis region. Treatments will include heterospecific pollen (congeneric), outcross pollen (conspecific), and selfing, with several additional mixed pollen treatments of varying proportions of heterospecific and conspecific pollen. The student will evaluate how pollination treatment affects seed set using a randomized block analysis of variance (ANOVA). As this project will require field work, the ideal candidate will have access to a car for transportation to the field site. If necessary, this project will have the ability to transfer online, with the student testing the same hypothesis using data collected for different species that flower earlier in the season. The student participating in this research will have the opportunity of being a co-author on a publication on the fitness effects of interspecific pollen transfer.

| Categories: Ecology and Evolution | Tags: Pollination Ecology, Glogal Change Biology, Biodiversity Conservation | Return