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April 6, 2009: UNC Professor Receives Grant to Study Plant Evolution

University of Northern Colorado's Mitchell McGlaughlin recently received a $145,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for a multi-year project on the processes that produce a new species of a group of flowering plants in California.

The assistant professor in Biological Sciences will analyze Lotus species on the Channel Islands of California to better understand and clarify how genetics and environmental conditions affect the plant's evolution.

The islands contain many unique species not found on the nearby mainland. McGlaughlin said that the island Lotus species, while closely related, also vary among the eight islands between Santa Barbara and San Diego with the starkest differences present on the islands farthest from the mainland. McGlaughlin will travel to the islands to examine the relationship between isolation and shared genetics in producing those species.

Several island Lotus species are rare and endangered and the results of the research will inform conservation management practices, McGlaughlin said.

The project, titled "The Role of Isolation in Species Diversification; Insights Into Dispersal and Evolution of Endemic Lotus from the California Channel Islands," began in March. UNC students will also have the opportunity to be involved in McGlaughlin's research.

McGlaughlin teaches courses in plant systematics, evolution, and population genetics at UNC. The current project expands on his existing work.

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