Christen Cerrito

Mentor: Dr. Norman Douglas
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
"With climate change and endangered species more at risk, it is important to me that we decrease the disadvantages of these species. Research is a wonderful opportunity to participate in the endeavors that towards this goal!"





Research Interests

  • Conservation

Academic Awards

  • University Scholars Program 2016


  • The National Society for Leadership and Success
  • Honors Society
  • G.R.O.W. Botany Club


  • Lab Work

Hobbies and Interests

  • painting
  • gardening

Research Description

Population Genetics of a Federally Endangered Sumac Species: Rhus michauxii
Rhus michauxii, (Michaux’s Sumac) discovered by Andre Michaux in the late 1700s, is one of the rarest shrubs in the southeastern United States (Barden and Matthews, 2004). Its close relative, Rhus glabra, is contrastingly widespread, and its range overlaps that of Rhus michauxii, which has a relatively limited geographical distribution at scattered sites in the upper Coastal Plain Provinces of Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia (Barden and Matthews, 2004). Because of Rhus michauxii’s limited geographical distribution, the species and its individual populations have an increased risk for loss of genetic diversity and extinction (Sherman-Broyles et al, 1992). There has been concern about the hybridization of the two species because it puts Rhus michauxii at a higher risk for extinction and it is already Federally Endangered (Burke and Hamrick, 2002). Clonal reproduction and the dioecious nature of the sumac plants make it difficult to discern the exact population because populations without both species cannot reproduce by seed; this makes Rhus michauxii especially prone to hybridization. Earlier studies suggest this occurrence of hybridization, we aim to test whether or not it is actually happening.