Plant Systematics, Conservation Biology, and Ethnobotany


Mónica Carlsen, Ph.D.

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Mónica Carlsen, Ph.D.

Assistant Scientist – Education Coordinator
Research Department, Science & Conservation Division

Research Interests
• Plant species diversity and geographic distribution in tropical regions
• Phylogenomics of rapid radiations of species
• Ex-situ conservation through DNA banking

Ex-situ conservation of plant diversity in the Missouri Botanical Garden’s public conservatories. Carlsen, the current REU program co-PI, is an Assistant Scientist and the Education Coordinator of MBG’s Research Department. One of her research focuses is to understand the role of greenhouse and DNA bank collections in research and ex-situ plant conservation. The Missouri Botanical Garden is one of the premier botanical institutions in North America, with ca. 3,000 living plant accessions growing in 32,900 square feet of the Garden’s public conservatories (i.e. the Climatron and the Shoenberg Temperate House). Throughout the years, with intensive collections efforts by garden research staff, and upkeep by the Horticulture Department, the Garden has been able to maintain an exceptional and distinct sample of the planet’s plant diversity alive in these ex-situ collections, mainly showcasing plants from tropical, warm-temperate and Mediterranean regions of the world. From 2017 to 2019, in collaboration with the Global Genome Initiative (GGI) in Gardens program, local interns have been vouchering the majority of these collections for DNA banking and analysis. In this REU project, the student(s) will use DNA sequences generated by GGI-Gardens to analyze the representatively and uniqueness of the MBG ex-situ collections compared to other Garden’s in the world. The student(s) will learn how to search for DNA sequences in public databases (GenBank, BOLD), reconstruct phylogenetic trees and compare them with previously published phylogenies, find other ex-situ collections in botanical garden databases (BGCI), examine the conservation status of plant species (IUCN Red List), produce conservation assessments when necessary (GeoCAT), upload and curate digital photographs of plants collected into TROPICOS and LCMS, as well as voucher new collections and DNA samples as needed. The student(s) will be a co-author in a publication showcasing the results of this project.  

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