Project Report

EAPSI 2011 Jessica Clopton University of Western Australia I. Introduction The southwestern Australian floristic region (SWAFR) is one of the world’s biodiversity hotspot. My EAPSI project aimed to add an evolutionary perspective to work in Hans Lambers' lab at the University of Western Australia. Lambers and colleagues have identified two members of the genus Hakea as model species for study of a phosphorus sensitivity trait, which is critical to survival of plants on the phosphorus poor, ancient soils of the SWAFR. II. Research and Education My two main objectives were: (1) phylogenetic reconstruction of the 22 species group containing the two model species and (2) reconstruction of the evolution of life history and morphological traits and their relationship with soil phosphorus levels. I performed a preliminary parsimony analysis and obtained a tree (Fig. 1) containing two groups with interesting geographic patterns. Most species in the top group are in the northern portion of the SWAFR or restricted to a small area near Perth. Most bottom species occur on the southeastern or southwestern coasts. I placed the characters for fire survival strategy and leaf morphology on the tree as a preliminary look at patterns in phylogenetic distribution of these traits. Preliminary soil analyses show that the most phosphorus-sensitive species grow in a narrower range of soil phosphorus content than less sensitive species. One interpretation of these results could be that less sensitive species can grow in a wider range of soils, relative to phosphorus content. Due to the field-oriented nature of the project, several unforeseen obstacles prevented me from accomplishing the entire project in the 8-week timeframe. I have continued to work on these aspects throughout the fall of 2011, as funding and time allowed. A. Outreach My stay in Australia also included opportunities to make connections with other researchers. In addition to interacting during working hours, I took two field trips with my host lab, one of which included scientists from seven countries (Fig. 2). I also worked extensively with one of the post docs from the Lambers group. During summer 2012, I will present my results at Botany 2012. I will also integrate portions into the undergraduate Plant Biology lab I teach during spring semester. B. Cultural Experiences I spent the week prior to EAPSI exploring Sydney. I saw the Royal Botanic Gardens, and I took a ferry out to Manly and a tour of the Blue Mountains. I quickly saw differences in culture between the U.S. and Australia, and it doesn’t end at vegemite. Australians have a genuine happiness and careful politeness that Americans lack. Common expressions of this relaxed attitude include "cheers" in place of the formal American "thank you," and "no worries" is offered to convey that it was no trouble at all. Even on field trips, we took 15 minutes each morning to return to the field vehicle for "morning tea," a striking example of differences between Americans and Australians: in the U.S. we are always too rushed to partake in such activities. Plant Biology at UWA was highly international; officemates hailed from France, Denmark, India, China, and Australia. I enjoyed the friendly departmental social scene, taking part in Monday potluck lunches by Matilda Bay, and department morning tea and evening happy hours at Broadway shopping center on Fridays. Most visitors to Australia never see the stunning beauty of WA (Fig. 3). During collecting trips, I drove on left side of road, eventually covering 3,000+ miles. I saw nearly every attraction in the southwest, including the Pinnacles, Cape Le Grand, Valley of the Giants and William Bay National Park. III. Research Products I began collaboration with Kevin Thiele at the WA Herbarium on a study of a potentially new species, known as H. sp. "Eastern Coastal Plain." I am exploring the use of the ycf1 chloroplast gene in distinguishing these very closely related species. I anticipate two publications to result from data collected during EAPSI. These will be submitted during summer 2012. IV. Conclusion The NSF EAPSI fellowship was absolutely invaluable to me. I collected data from the other side of the earth, and formed indispensible research contacts. It also changed the direction of my life; I enjoyed my fieldwork so much that I decided to finish a master’s and move to Australia to pursue a career in Field Botany, and eventually maybe a Ph.D. at the University of Western Australia. I am honored to have been a part of this amazing program. Figure 3 Hakea drupacea habitat. Torndirrup National Park on the southern coast, south of Albany, WA

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Office of International and Integrative Activities (IIA)
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Carter Kimsey
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Clopton Jessica A
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