Category: Blog


Published: January 5, 2015

Molecular Evolution of Quillworts (Isoetes)

Stephanie Ware, Manager, Morphology Labs, SEM


Project Mentors: Dr. Matt von Konrat (Head of Botanical Collections, Collections Manager (Bryophytes & Ferns), Gantz Family Collections Center) and Dr. Felix Grewe (Postdoctoral Researcher, Integrative Research Center)

Project Description: Quillworts (Isoetes) belong to the oldest group of vascular plants on earth, the Lycophytes, which were the most diverse plant species during the Carboniferous period around 310 million years ago. However, the approximately 150 Isoetes species in existence today are very difficult to distinguish by their general appearance. Therefore, a phylogenetic reconstruction of this plant group requires microscopic analyses of spores and molecular phylogenetic analyses of DNA marker sequences. In this project, we will take advantage of the large selection of herbarium specimens to revisit the phylogeny of this unique plant group. A special focus of this project will be to define the enigmatic phylogenetic position of two South American species which were initially separated into the genus Stylites.

Research methods and techniques: REU participants in this project will receive training in molecular and organismal research methods. They will learn how important a combination of both methods is for an understanding of the evolution of the diversity of life. The training will include an introduction to the literature, handling of herbarium specimens, microscopic analyses on morphology, and molecular techniques including DNA isolation, PCR, and subsequent direct sequencing of certain gene regions. Additionally, phylogenetic analyses of DNA sequence data will be performed.

Stephanie Ware
Manager, Morphology Labs, SEM

Stephanie Ware is currently a research assistant in the Division of Insects currently working with Dr. Petra Sierwald. She also works with Mary Hennen in the Division of Birds monitoring the Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) populations in Illinois.