Plant Science and Conservation, Chicago Botanic Garden
I am a plant population ecologist and educator currently working as a postdoctoral research associate in Dr. Amy Iler's lab at the Chicago Botanic Garden (CBG). In my research I use demographic and comparative approaches. I study how the interactions between a species’ traits and its environment affect fitness and population dynamics. At CBG I am quantifying the population dynamics of rare and endangered plant species in Illinois. Our goal is to evaluate the efficacy of associated management strategies to promote plant species recovery and sustainability. During my PhD I investigated a very peculiar strategy in plants termed seed heteromorphism. This strategy involves the production of morphologically different seeds at the same time. I found that seed heteromorphism functions as a bet-hedging mechanism that is adjusted by plasticity. Specifically, seed heteromorphic species produce multiple morphologically different seed types. These seed types have different fitness responses across different environments such that each seed type has an environment in which it does better than all others. We showed that this functions to lower variance in fitness while maximizing long-term fitness. In other words, by making multiple different seeds the plant is "not putting all of its eggs in one basket" and thus spreading risk or hedging its bets. I earned my undergraduate degree in biological science at Florida Atlantic University. As an undergraduate I was involved in research focusing on the population dynamics of gopher tortoises in southern Florida, wading bird foraging dynamics in the Florida Everglades and anti-predator defenses in marine sea turtles. Next to my research I am very passionate about ecology outreach and education. I developed educational tools, work on curriculum design and serve on pedagogy groups in general. I am also a big proponent of the Ecological Society of America's SEEDS (Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity and Sustainability) program which I enjoyed as an undergraduate member and graduate chapter advisor.
Monday, August 2, 2021