Research Interests and Student Work
My research interests are in floristics, conservation, plant ecology, and plant systematics. My research group is active in working on the floristics of the Cross Timbers and Colorado River bottomland plant ecology. Students are active in projects involving conservation of Cross Timbers plants. We have also completed studies that have examined the burrow ecology of the Texas kangaroo rat, a state-threatened species. Systematic studies of the genera Arachis (peanuts), Chelone (wild snapdragons endemic to eastern North America), Castilleja (paintbrushes), and Nothochelone (a wild snapdragon endemic to western North America) are also ongoing.
Several graduate students and volunteers from the Botanical Research Institute of Texas and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality are currently working on research projects in my laboratory. Paige Cowley, has completed a two year flora of Hunewell Ranch and a survey for rare plants on the ranch. Volunteers, Sam Kieschnick and Sara Harsley, are working on the conservation and ecology of a rare, endemic species of the West Cross Timbers.
In the past, two undergraduate students, Elizabeth Watson and Mark Nelson, have worked on Texas Kangaroo Rats, a state threatened mammal species. They examined its ecological preferences and with Dr. Russell Pfau, assessed population genetics using molecular markers. Undergraduates Angela Roberson, Cherlyn Jackson, Marti Samuel, and Jennifer Tucker used molecular techniques to examine genetic diversity in tetraploid peanuts.
Graduate students have also worked on a number of projects over the past several years. Jeff Brister has compared the floristics and ecology of wetlands of different ages. Shannon Burgess has worked on county floral records from Fossil Rim Wildlife Center. Chad Stasey has examined vegetation associated with the Texas kangaroo rat burrows at two sites with different grazing regimes, as well as the animal's behavior. Staci McPhail has documented numerous Eastland County floristic records.
Several graduate students have worked as a part of a research group with undergraduate students. Shyam Shindhar, a graduate student worked with two undergraduates, Jennifer Jurney and Nathan Leslie, to screen wild plants and related hay crops for drought resistant genes. Graduate student Adam Lucksinger helped undergraduates Angela Day, Lashea Macke, and Travis Wilburn examine vegetational changes in four communities at Padre Island National Seashore (PINS) and make the first Checklist of PINS plants.