"I applied to the Scholars program to gain a better understanding of research methods and the publication process, and also for financial support of the research I had been conducting in Spring 2011. The Scholars program is great because it provides its students with both a platform to present their own findings, and to see what other exciting studies are being conducted by other Scholars."
My main research interests concern the wide diversity and evolution of plant species. Academically, I am interested in all fields of biology, but retain a special love for botany and genetics. After I graduate, I plan to pursue a Master's and PhD in Plant Science or related fields.
Academic and Other Awards
- University Scholars Program Scholarship (2011-2012)
- Botanical Society of America Undergraduate Research Award (2011)
- Florida Bright Futures (2008)
- UF Intramural Flag Football
- Roots and Shoots
- UF Outdoor Adventure Recreation
Hobbies and Interests
- Hiking, camping, drawing, writing, and reading.
Systematics of the Myrica Cerifera Species Complex in the Southeastern United States
Myrica cerifera (wax myrtle) and Myrica cerifera var. pumila (dwarf wax myrtle) are two flowering plants currently categorized as the same species by many. However, because the morphologies of these two entities are noticeably different (one is a large shrub, the other (M. cerifera var. pumila) a small understory subshrub), some taxonomists have suggested that these plants are actually two distinct species, M. cerifera and M. pusilla. The two plants have been observed to have consistent morphological differences, but it is possible that these differences in morphology (e.g. fruit size and leaf form) are simply a response to the habitat in which the plant happens to grow. To test the hypothesis of one vs. two species, samples of the two plants are being collected from a broad range of locations in northern Florida for DNA extraction and sequencing using standard lab techniques. A phylogenetic analysis will also include DNA extractions from preserved herbarium specimens of the Myrica genus, as well as data obtained from GenBank. The analysis will use nuclear ribosomal ITS and plastid regions (psbA-trnH, trnG-trnS, trnG-trnG, psbM-ycf6, petA-psbJ, rpl32-trnL) of DNA for comparison. Further studies will include comparisons of leaf, stem, and fruit anatomy. Lumping potentially distinct taxa within a single species can have a dramatic effect on conservation practices: only those plants recognized as distinct species warrant conservation attention. Masking the genetic, morphological, reproductive, and ecological differences between var. cerifera and var. pumila by recognizing a similar species, M. cerifera, prevents an accurate accounting of biodiversity and its conservation. I hope that this study of the Myrica cerifera complex will become a model for how to investigate these complicated groups and will lead to a better understanding of the diverse flora of Florida and its conservation needs.