Plant Systematics, Conservation Biology, and Ethnobotany


Brigette Williams, Ph.D.

posted on
Brigette Williams, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow in Population Genomics
Center for Conservation and Sustainable Development

Research Interests
• Plant Conservation
• Plant Genomics & Epigenomics
• Phenotypic plasticity
• Eco-evolutionary dynamics in rare, threatened, and endangered plants

Christine Edwards, Ph.D.
Assistant Scientist
Director of Conservation Genetics
Center for Conservation and Sustainable Development

Research Interests
• Conservation Genetics
• Quantitative Genetics
• Species-level molecular systematics

Phylogeny reconstruction and population genetic analysis to assess the distinctiveness and genetic diversity of Trifolium kentuckiense. Williams is a Postdoctoral Fellow studying genomics of endangered species. Edwards is a population geneticist whose research includes studies of the genetic diversity of endangered species. Effective conservation requires the accurate characterization of biodiversity. Genetic data is particularly useful for conservation because it can quantify biodiversity at a variety of taxonomic levels. Specifically, genetic data can inform on species boundaries, such as determining whether a rare species is genetically unique or if it is a subpopulation of a widespread species. Estimates of genetic diversity within populations of rare species can be compared to those from historical specimens (i.e., herbarium specimens) to determine the extent of the loss of genetic diversity and to identify which evolutionary processes (e.g., inbreeding, genetic drift, and genetic bottlenecks) have played a significant role. Such information can indicate which populations require conservation intervention to halt the loss of genetic diversity. Trifolium kentuckiense is a recently described, critically imperiled (G1S1) species of Trifolium known from only two sites in two counties in Kentucky. Recent work contradicts early accounts describing T. kentuckiense as being morphologically similar, and a close relative, to T. reflexum. However, recent work was limited by small sample sizes. This study will use modern samples collected from extant populations throughout the ranges of T. kentuckiense and T. reflexum and morphologically ambiguous herbarium specimens of each species to investigate the distinctiveness and genetic diversity of T. kentuckiense. Modern samples will be subjected to high-throughput DNA sequencing to determine species distinctiveness. Modern and herbarium samples will be genotyped using microsatellite markers to determine the identity of ambiguous herbarium samples and measure how genetic diversity of T. kentuckiense has changed over time. This work will: (1) investigate the distinctiveness of T. kentuckiense from T. reflexum; (2) assess genetic diversity and structure within and among populations of T. kentuckiense; (3) compare current levels of genetic diversity to historical levels; and (4) determine whether populations of T. kentuckiense have experienced a loss of genetic diversity over time, all of which are relevant for informing conservation management of T. kentuckiense.

| Categories: | Tags: Plant Conservation, Plant Genomics & Epigenomics, Phenotypic plasticity | Return