The new three-year (April 1, 2015 – March 31, 2018) $758, 208 NSF Grant awarded to PI, Andrea Wolfe, associate professor; evolution, ecology and organismal biology; and co-PI Laura Kubatko, professor, statistics, allows them to put adaptive radiation theory to the test in Penstemon.

Using next-generation sequencing approaches, the researchers will estimate phylogeny for up to 90% ofPenstemon’s 280 + described species to investigate why this species-rich genus has diversified so rapidly across North America.

Kubatko’s group has developed new methods of analyses for phylogeny reconstruction that can handle such enormous amounts of data. Additionally, they are working on new modeling methods to examine patterns of hybridization throughout the genus.

The researchers believe that Penstemon has the potential to become an iconic model system for studying adaptive radiation theory.

Given the numbers and range of Penstemon—a large genus endemic to North America with 280 or more species described to-date and the possibility of many more yet to be discovered—this is an enormous project, with equally enormous potential.

Wolfe’s lab undertakes the field work; morphometric, ecological analyses and next-generation sequencing projects, while Kubatko’s lab takes on all analytical and modeling work for phylogeny reconstruction and examining patterns of hybridization in the phylogenetic tree.

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