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Smith A.B.,Missouri Botanical Garden
Global Ecology and Biogeography | Year: 2013

Aims: I determine the relative importance of temperature and moisture acting alone and in tandem for range contractions and expansions of mammalian species over c. 70 years. Location: The contiguous United States west of the eastern border of the Rocky Mountains (103.77°W). Methods: Museum records of 67 mammalian species from two time periods (1900-39 and 1970-2009), mean annual temperature and mean annual precipitation are used to model historic and modern distributions. For each era the region outside each species' range in the opposing era is assigned to zones of range limitation: temperature alone is prohibitive, moisture alone is prohibitive, both preclude the species, or both have values that alone are within the species' tolerance range but in combination are outside its climatic niche ('interaction' limitation). The relative importance of each type of limitation is estimated by their intersection with regions of range contraction and expansion. Results: Averaged across species, 82±3% (±SE) of the areas of contraction are now occupied by interaction limitation, and 74±5% of areas expanded into were historically occupied by similar zones. In comparison, areas of range shift in which just temperature or moisture acting alone would have excluded the species comprise between only 9 and 17%, and areas in which both factors are limiting are negligible. Expansions into and contractions from regions of interaction limitation occurred more often than expected by chance given the distribution of this type of limitation in the wider study region. Main conclusions: Particular combinations of temperature and moisture can interact directly or indirectly to limit species ranges even when these factors alone do not exceed species tolerances. Change in the correlation between of range-limiting factors can have as much effect on species ranges as absolute change in those factors by themselves. © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Al-Shehbaz I.A.,Missouri Botanical Garden
Taxon | Year: 2012

As currently delimited, the Brassicaceae comprise 49 tribes, 321 genera, and 3660 species. Of these, 20 genera and 34 species remain to be assigned to tribes. These figures differ substantially from those estimated five years ago, in which 25 tribes, 338 genera, and 3709 species were recognized. Of those 338 genera, 37 are treated herein as synonyms, and 21 genera (10 re-established and 11 new) have since been added. The genera Notothlaspi, Peltariopsis, Sinapidendron, and Xerodraba are lectotypified. The following 11 taxa are reduced for the first time to synonymy of what follows them in parentheses: Boreava and Tauscheria (Isatis), Catadysia (Weberbauera), Coelophragmus (Dryopetalon), Crambeae (Brassiceae), Eremodraba (Neuontobotrys), Leavenworthieae (Cardamineae), Lexarzanthe (Romanschulzia), Noccaeopsis (Noccaea), Romanschulzia orizabae (R. arabiformis), and Sibaropsis (Streptanthus). The new names Isatis zarrei and I. quadrialata are proposed to avoid the creation of later homonyms upon the transfers to Isatis of the herein lectotypified Boreava orientalis and Sameraria nummularia, respectively. Twenty-seven new combinations are proposed: Abdra aprica, Camelinopsis kurdica, Dryopetalon auriculatum, Isatis aptera, I. cardiocarpa, I. glastifolia, I. gymnocarpa, Neuontobotrys intricatissima, N. schulzii, Noccaea apterocarpa, N. caespitosa, N. iberidea, N. oppositifolia, Onuris hauthalii, Parlatoria taurica, Petroravenia friesii, P. werdermannii, Streptanthus barnebyi, S. cooperi, S. hammittii, Tomostima araboides, T. australis, T. cuneifolia, T. platycarpa, T. reptans, T. sonorae, and Weberbauera rosulans.

Modelling the distribution of rare and invasive species often occurs in situations where reliable absences for evaluating model performance are unavailable. However, predictions at randomly located sites, or 'background' sites, can stand in for true absences. The maximum value of the area under the receiver operator characteristic curve, AUC, calculated with background sites is believed to be 1 - a/2, where a is the typically unknown prevalence of the species on the landscape. Using a simple example of a species' range, I show how AUC can achieve values > 1 - a/2 when test presences do not represent each inhabited region of a species__ range in proportion to its area. Values of AUC that surpass 1 - a/2 are associated with higher model predictions in areas overrepresented in the test data set, even if they are less environmentally suitable than other regions the species occupies. Pursuit of high AUC values can encourage inclusion of spurious predictors in the final model if they help to differentiate areas with disproportionate representation in the test data. Choices made during modelling to increase AUC calculated with background sites on the assumption that higher scores connote more accurate models can decrease actual accuracy when test presences disproportionately represent inhabited areas. © 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Graham A.,Missouri Botanical Garden
American Journal of Botany | Year: 2011

Eight ecosystems that were present in the Cretaceous about 100 Ma (million years ago) in the New World eventually developed into the 12 recognized for the modern Earth. Among the forcing mechanisms that drove biotic change during this interval was a decline in global temperatures toward the end of the Cretaceous, augmented by the asteroid impact at 65 Ma and drainage of seas from continental margins and interiors; separation of South America from Africa beginning in the south at ca. 120 Ma and progressing northward until completed 90-100 Ma; the possible emission of 1500 gigatons of methane and CO 2 attributed to explosive vents in the Norwegian Sea at ca. 55 Ma, resulting in a temperature rise of 5°-6° C in an already warm world; disruption of the North Atlantic land bridge at ca. 45 Ma at a time when temperatures were falling; rise of the Andes Mountains beginning at ca. 40 Ma; opening of the Drake Passage between South America and Antarctica at ca. 32 Ma with formation of the cold Humboldt at ca. 30 Ma; union of North and South America at ca. 3.5 Ma; and all within the overlay of evolutionary processes. These processes generated a sequence of elements (e.g., species growing in moist habitats within an overall dry environment; gallery forests), early versions (e.g., mangrove communities without Rhizophora until the middle Eocene), and essentially modern versions of present-day New World ecosystems. As a first approximation, the fossil record suggests that early versions of aquatic communities (in the sense of including a prominent angiosperm component) appeared early in the Middle to Late Cretaceous, the lowland neotropical rainforest at 64 Ma (well developed by 58-55 Ma), shrubland/chaparral-woodland-savanna and grasslands around the middle Miocene climatic optimum at ca. 15-13 Ma, deserts in the middle Miocene/early Pliocene at ca. 10 Ma, significant tundra at ca. 7-5 Ma, and alpine tundra (páramo) shortly thereafter when cooling temperatures were augmented by high elevations attained, for example, in the Andes < 10 Ma and especially after 7-6 Ma. © 2011 Botanical Society of America.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: GoLife | Award Amount: 379.88K | Year: 2016

A major goal of botanists is to describe and name the vast diversity of plant species found on our planet and to understand how, when, and where plants evolved. This is particularly challenging for groups with very large numbers of species, especially when they are difficult to observe because they grow in hard to reach places. Tropical tree genera with many species are among the most under-studied plant groups, creating a significant gap in our knowledge. To overcome this gap, an efficient and effective strategy is needed to discover, describe, understand and conserve this large and important part of the worlds biodiversity. This research project will develop a streamlined strategy, using the genus Schefflera (a member of the ivy family, Araliaceae) in tropical America as a model group. More than 400 species of Schefflera occur in this vast region, especially in the very mountainous areas of the northern Andes. Many of these species have only been seen by scientists once or a few times, and almost half do not yet have scientific names. Moreover, very few tools are available to recognize and identify these ecologically important plants, and we know almost nothing about how they evolved into so many different forms, or how they were able to adapt to the wide range of habitats. The strategy of this study, which includes field work in four Andean countries (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru), aims to improve our understanding of these evolutionary processes. It will also focus on identifying and naming the species that occur in a limited number of places and are most threatened with extinction (mostly by tropical deforestation) so that they can be targeted by conservation efforts. The information generated by the project will be made available on-line to a wide range of users, both within and beyond the scientific community. To help develop the next generation of plant systematists, 12 undergraduate students will be given an opportunity to learn about this important yet under-appreciated branch of botany through two 6-week summer internship programs at the Missouri and New York Botanical Gardens, and 12 more advanced students in botany or biology will participate in a tropical field botany program, joining the project scientists to gain hands-on experience during field work in South America.

The research will involve constructing phylogenies for the species of Andean Schefflera using DNA-based evidence, taking advantage of recent advances in technology, especially high-throughput approaches to DNA sequencing. The phylogenies will provide a greater understanding of the major lineages of these 400+ species, which in turn will provide a framework for classifying and naming them, and for understanding their evolutionary and geographic relationships. A streamlined green-listing approach to assessing conservation status of the species that are most likely to be threatened will inform priorities for naming and conserving new and rare Andean members of Schefflera. Intensive herbarium studies will provide sources of geographic, morphological, and molecular data, and will guide field work in the countries of the central and northern Andes, targeting sites with the highest concentration of species that remain unsampled, and focusing on areas in southern Ecuador and northern Peru where the group appears to have undergone exceptional diversification. Time-dated phylogenies will be used to explore biogeographic scenarios and to test for correlations among morphology, ecology, geography and evolutionary history, providing insights into the evolution of plant diversity in the Andes. These studies will be conducted with the collaboration of local botanists and students from each of the four South American countries where field work will be done. This will promote a long-term network of international researchers capable of sustaining the long-term goals of fully documenting and understanding the tremendous diversity of Schefflera in the tropical Andes.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: RSCH EXPER FOR UNDERGRAD SITES | Award Amount: 306.51K | Year: 2016

This REU Site award to Missouri Botanical Garden, located in St. Louis, MO, will support the training of 10 students for 10 weeks, during the summers of 2016-2018. Major themes of the program are plant diversity, evolution, and conservation. Projects emphasizing lab, herbarium, field, and statistical work are available to students, with subject areas including plant systematics and taxonomy, conservation of endangered species, ecological restoration, invasive species biology, biodiversity assessment, pollination biology, new crop development, and ethnobotany. Students will complete individual research projects and participate in group educational sessions on research design, resources and methods, scientific writing, preparation of posters and talks, graduate school success, and scientific ethics and responsible conduct of research. Recruitment will target students nationwide, with emphasis on institutions with limited research infrastructure, as well as regional HBCU and TCU institutions. Current sophomores and juniors are encouraged to apply. Students submit applications on-line. Student selection and pairing with mentors are made by the PIs, in consultation with mentors and other colleagues, based on applicants academic record, prior experience, and expressed interest.

It is anticipated that a total of 30 students, primarily from schools with limited research opportunities, will be trained in the program. Students will learn how research is conducted and will be encouraged to present the results of their work at scientific conferences. Enrichment activities will include seminars by local or visiting scientists, field trips to natural and cultural attractions, and interactions with faculty and students from other local REU and internship programs.

A common web-based assessment tool used by all REU programs funded by the Division of Biological Infrastructure (Directorate for Biological Sciences) will be used to determine the effectiveness of the training program. Students will be tracked after the program in order to determine their career paths. Students will be asked to respond to an automatic email sent via the NSF reporting system. More information about the program is available by visiting or by contacting the PI (Dr. Wendy Applequist at or the co-PI (Dr. Peter Hoch at

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ITEST | Award Amount: 644.43K | Year: 2015

An ongoing collaboration between the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will advance efforts of the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program to better understand and promote practices that increase students motivations and capacities to pursue careers in fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM). Specifically, this project will explore how a modeling-based curricular approach advances 4th and 5th grade students understanding of science as a way of knowing. By interacting with simulation-based games to create and revise models based upon real-world experiences with local ecosystems, students will begin to reason with evidence and to make connections between local and global environmental patterns. To support modeling as an instructional strategy, teachers will participate in extensive professional development to deepen their understanding of ecological content, use of technological tools, and pedagogical shifts that facilitate model-based inquiry. Additional project outcomes will include eight new curriculum modules, new software modeling tools and simulation games, and evidence of student and teacher changes in knowledge and awareness of STEM careers. Taking a systemic approach and engaging all 4th and 5th grade students and their teachers in a demographically diverse school district, this project has potential for broadening participation and interest in STEM.

The research focus of this study will be to investigate the contextual factors found within a model-enhanced elementary science program which are most closely associated with student gains in understanding: 1) science as a way of knowing, 2) use of systems thinking and evidence-based reasoning, 3) conceptual change, and 4) interest in STEM careers. Approximately 1,400 4th and 5th grade students and 50 teachers will participate in the study over two school years. Data from multiple instruments (e.g., surveys, interviews, classroom observations, student projects, pre- and post-tests) and collected over multiple time points will be triangulated for assessing changes in student and teacher knowledge, as well as teacher practice. In addition, a subset of 125 students will be purposively sampled for a more focused exploration of the development of individual learning trajectories. Researchers will control dosage, systematic classroom, and instructional differences.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: AISL | Award Amount: 1.49M | Year: 2012

Informal Community Science Investigators (iCSI) creates a network of four geographically diverse informal science institutions working together on strategies to engage youth ages 10-13 through location based augmented reality (AR) games played on smartphones. These high-interest, kid-friendly games will be used by families visiting the institutions and by youth who enroll in more intensive summer camp programs. Using AR games, participants will engage in playful but scientifically-grounded investigations drawing on each institutions research, exhibits, and natural spaces. For example, a botanical garden might engage young visitors through AR games with themes related to native and invasive species, while a zoo might create a game experience focusing on illegal wildlife trade. Participants in the iCSI summer camp program will have more intensive experiences, including work with the host institutions scientists, opportunities to develop original augmented reality games, and experiences with game-related service learning and citizen science programs. For both target groups (families and campers), the location specific games build understanding of both the institutions mission and the broader realm of scientific research and application.

The project will test the notion of participants as learner hero, the link between game play and the individuals development of competency, autonomy and the relationship to real world experience, in this case through community action on the subject of the game developed. To that end, participants will be encouraged to extend their involvement through related investigations on site and participation in community activities and projects that can be done at home. Social media tools such as Facebook and web sites managed by the host institutions will provide recognition for this extended engagement, helping participants maintain ties to the program. Additionally, program resources provide assistance to adult family members in nurturing and sustaining youth interest in STEM activities and careers.

A major effort of the project will be development of a new software infrastructure called TaleBlazer for the augmented reality game that will enable teachers and students to develop their own game that incorporates real data collection and scientific model building. The new platform will enhance the game play platform MITAR developed with NSF funding.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: PHYLOGENETIC SYSTEMATICS | Award Amount: 152.56K | Year: 2013

The mustard family (Brassicaceae) includes over 3660 species, of which many are important vegetables (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, turnip, radish, watercress, arugula) and sources of industrial and vegetable oils (canola) and condiments (table mustard, horseradish, wasabi). One species, thale cress, is the model organism in experimental plant biology. The family is quite complex, and there are very few young scientists with expertise in this important family. This two-year grant will support the synthesis of the extensive taxonomic/evolutionary literature and vastly unpublished, though nearly complete, work the PI assembled during his 45-year research on the family. All findings, regardless to their stage of completion, will be downloadable from the project website at the Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG). The website will also include plant digital images, comprehensive literature, and simplified electronic keys to assist professionals and students with the easy identification of mustards.

The PI will train 28 undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral botanists through four workshops at MBG to enable them to understand the taxonomic complexity of the family. The Project website will be a major resource and will enhance the infrastructure for research and education by covering all aspects of mustards on a worldwide basis. The information will be used by researchers and students in taxonomy, conservation, education, horticulture, and crop sciences.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Biodiversity: Discov &Analysis | Award Amount: 105.14K | Year: 2015

The American tropical regions, the Neotropics, have high rates of plant speciation. In some plant families such as the Araceae, the aroid or Philodendron family, this has led to unusually high rates of species richness and local rarity. Thus the presence of Araceae species is a major indicator of the value of proposed conservation parks and natural reserves throughout the tropics. This project will provide detailed taxonomic descriptions of an estimated 2700 species of Anthurium and Philodendron, the two largest genera in the Araceae, this constitutes about 45% of the entire family. The family is preeminent in horticulture where the family rates first in potted plant sales and is renowned for indoor landscaping due to the resilient growth in low light conditions. Since plants are easily brought into cultivation and are highly ornamental, growers all over the world will benefit from the taxonomic revision, which includes morphological and ecological descriptions, of the Araceae. The availability of so many species also insures that the family will remain an important tool in teaching biology, especially owing to the many interesting and unique features the plants exhibit such as the production of heat and a wide array of flower types and pollination systems.

The goal of the project is to synthesize in a comprehensive, systematic-phylogenetic manner the 47 years of research at the Missouri Botanical Garden on Neotropical Anthurium and Philodendron. The work entails includes floristic accounts of most areas in the Neotropics, nine major revisions, 200 publications, over 2400 taxonomic novelties, and many unpublished systematic and floristic treatments. Herbarium collections will be used to identify new and to refine existing species definitions in Araceae. The taxonomic data for all species will be entered into the Lucid program, a user friendly multi-entry computerized plant identification key. The keys database will store morphological and ecological trait information which is used to help people identify plant specimens and the data can be used in analyses. The Lucid keys will be available online to the plant sciences, horticultural community and the general public worldwide on at least two websites and will enable users to make determinations of these horticulturally important groups. This precise information coupled with images of all species will be assembled on the website of the Missouri Botanical Garden as a part of Tropicos, currently one of the most heavily used plant databases in the world. At the same time floristic and revisionary accounts of most of the Neotropical Araceae will be made available online on the Missouri Botanical Gardens website. An important aspect of the project will be the training of 20 botanists from Latin America who are interested in Araceae and who will learn a variety of new approaches to aroid taxonomy including how to construct Lucid keys and other tools that will enable them to continue research with Araceae and to be more efficient in conducting research.

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