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Much of the work done in the field and laboratory pertains to the evolution of floral traits. We are particularly fond of how natural selection and genetic drift affect patterns of variation and evolutionary potential. We have been studying the genetic structure of populations using isozymes and will begin to employ AFLPs as well. Our primary focus has been on the Orchidaceae because it is one of the most species rich families of flowering plants and likey an ideal study system to detect patterns and processes of population differentiation.
The evolution and maitenance of deception pollination systems remains a focal point in our work. We ask under what conditions would deception pollition evolve and by what mechanisms does it persists? We have found that there is often much variation in characteristics associated with pollinator attraction. Is this variation due to relaxed selection or is it a consequence of negative frequency dependent selection? Current projects involve studies of floral fragrance and color variation.
The Orchidaceae treatment for the Flora of the Greater Antilles is a long term project involving a number of collaborators. These studies have spawned a number of projects including an analysis of phytogeographic affinities in the Caribbean and a monograph of the genus Tolumnia where morphological analyses are being coupled with genetic data for a phylogenetic treatment of the group.
Graduate student projects include studies such as the diversity and specificity of orchid-fungal symbionts, floral fragrance variation using GC/MS methodology, phenotypic plasticity in epiphytes, resource constraints to growth and reproduction in dwarf forest bromeliads, epiphyte community ecology, importance of floral rewards as a food resource to bat pollinators, frequency dependent selection on floral color in a deception-pollinated orchids, and phytogeographic affinities among limestone regions of the Caribbean.