- Ph.D., Botany, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
- B.S., Biology, Whitworth College, Spokane, WA
- Associate Professor, Plant Biology
- Black Hills State University
The Achillea millefolium aggregate is a circumpolar polyploid complex that occurs in a wide range of environments and exhibits exceptional phenotypic variability. These plants are easily propagated and experimentally manipulated -- including use in field transplants, which can measure plant performance in contrasting conditions, and controlled crosses, which can produce pedigrees segregating for traits of interest. Our work leverages Achillea to tease apart contributions of genetics and the environment on morphogenesis and physiology, addressing longstanding questions about factors underlying complex trait variation and the spatial scale of adaptation. Since 2015, we have studied tetraploid Achillea populations along a 250km transect in the Black Hills and Great Plains (25 sites at 770 - 2,200 m elevation, including shortgrass prairies, coniferous and deciduous forests, montane grasslands, mountain summits). Wild populations show 10-fold leaf area variation while stem length and flower number have 5- and 3-fold variation, respectively; peak flowering ranges from early June to mid-August. Garden experiments (2016-2020) suggest a strong genetic component for traits: correlations in size and phenological traits of populations measured in the field vs. garden are highly significant. Future work will test ecotype performance (fitness) in contrasting environments and contributions of epigenetics vs. allelic variation to population differences.