REU Research foci: How abiotic (e.g. climate, soils) and biotic (e.g. pollinating insects) factors affect evolutionary diversifications of plant lineages through speciation, adaptation, and extinction; how divergent populations acquire reproductive barriers and evolve into distinct species; how trade-offs, e.g., between growth and reproduction, constrain the direction of evolutionary change.
Typical REU project: Plant diversity and endemism are extremely high in the California Coast Ranges, restricting many local species to specific soils and microclimates and making them particularly vulnerable to climate change. A student could test for asynchrony between the timing of optimal flower production based on resource availability and highest pollinator visitation of specialist insects. The REU student would choose an endemic species, mark plants that flower at different times, count flower production and pollinator visits, use the database in the MNHC to assess historical shifts, and return to the field to count fruits to estimate the fitness of plants flowering at different times.
Website: Kay Research Lab