Research

Floristic Inventories

Floristic inventories are catalogs of biological diversity at specific localities. These inventories are compilations of all historical botanical explorations combined with intensive multiyear collecting expeditions designed to discover all plants that occur in a particular area. Besides determining a total number of species for an area, floristic inventories result in the discovery of new state records, geographical distributions, and species new to science. Floristic inventories record nonnative species and often track populations of rare, endemic species.

Vascular Flora of the San Francisco Peaks

Will Moir compiled more than 800 species records for vascular plants of the San Francisco Peaks in northern Arizona. These historical collections include specimens collected by Elbert Little, James Morefield, Jim Rominger, and many NAU graduate students, including Clark Schaack and Laurie Paulik.

Deaver Herbarium staff members are still actively hunting the San Francisco Peaks for species that have not been found in the past 20 to 80 years to revise the floristic inventory of the area created by Will, who is now living in northern California. Vascular Flora of the San Francisco Peaks (3rd ed.), an online resource, provides the most current inventory of the vascular plants of the San Francisco Peaks, including life zones, environments, and species list. 

Floristic Inventory of the Pinyon-Juniper Woodlands in the San Francisco Peaks Volcanic Field

A floristic inventory of the pinyon-juniper woodlands found in the volcanic field of Arizona’s San Francisco Peaks by Kyle Christie, an NAU graduate student, documented new species to Arizona and Coconino County. This study also possibly identified a previously unknown species. Kyle’s research showed that Colorado Plateau pinyon-juniper woodland is species rich and very different from the pinyin-juniper woodlands found below the Mogollon Rim. Kyle’s master’s thesis includes an analysis of floristic regions that have contributed to the Colorado Plateau pinyon-juniper woodlands and also correlates vegetation communities to the age of the substrate in the San Francisco Peaks volcanic field. Related publications include the following:

Christie, K. 2008. Vascular flora and floristic analysis of the lower San Francisco Volcanic Field, Coconino County, Arizona. Madroño 55:1–14. BioOne

Christie, K. 2009. Phytogeography and floristics of pinyon-juniper woodlands in northern Arizona. Western North American Naturalist 69(2):155–164.

Floristic Inventory of Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Apache County, Arizona

A floristic inventory for Canyon de Chelly National Monument was completed by Glenn Rink as his thesis project. This inventory identified 649 species from 90 families. The Southwest Environmental Information Network, or SEINet, includes the checklist for Canyon de Chelly National Monument. The following article includes a checklist for the vascular plans of Canyon de Chelly National Monument:

Rink, G. 2005. A checklist of the vascular flora of Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Apache County, Arizona. The Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society 132(3): 510–532.

Ethnobotany of the San Francisco Peaks

The ethnobotanical flora of Arizona’s San Francisco Peaks was documented by Kristin Kampe in her master’s thesis, which focused on medicinal and ceremonial plants used by 13 Native American Tribes that find the area sacred. This medicinal flora provides a comparative analysis of plant usage by these Tribes on the basis of application as well as by distribution of species.

Discovery of New Biodiversity

Sometimes botanical research leads to the discovery of species new to science.  Student and staff members affiliated with the Deaver Herbarium have described new species that have been discovered as the result of floristic inventories, general collecting, or while doing revisions and monographs, which are intensive studies of a single genus of plants.

Several Deaver Herbarium students have discovered new taxa and varieties of vascular plants. For example, Suzanne Rhodes, who received an undergraduate degree in botany from NAU in 1998 and has remained active with the herbarium for the past 15 years, discovered two new taxa while doing field work in northern Arizona. Suzanne described the new taxa as two different Scutellaria species. Similarly, Robin Taylor described a new variety of Salvia (Salvia pachyphylla ssp. eremopictus) endemic to northeastern Arizona.  Robin found that most populations are restricted to Chinle shale substrate that forms the Painted Desert area near Winslow and Holbrook, Arizona. The following publications document the discovery of these new taxa and varieties:

Rhodes, S. L., & Ayers, T. J. 2010. Two new taxa of Scutellaria section Resinosa (Lamiaceae) from Northern Arizona. Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas 4(1):19–26.

Taylor, R. M., & Ayers, T. J. 2006. Systematics of Salvia pachyphylla (Lamiaceae).  Madroño 53 (1):11–24.

Understanding the Evolutionary History of Plants

Phylogenetic studies help researchers to understand how plants are related to each other and how morphology, or the form and structure of organisms, evolves in response to changing environments or pollinators. These studies are important to understanding the biogeography, or distribution, of a species, including where it evolved and how its geographical area has changed through time.

For example, Deaver Herbarium undergraduate student Maggie Koopman used DNA sequencing to determine that nectar spurs evolved only once in the family Campanulaceae and are a significant indicator of evolutionary relationship within the  Mexican lobeliads. Maggie completed her doctoral degree at the University of Wisconsin and is now an Assistant Professor at Eastern Michigan University, Ypsalanti. The results of Maggie’s thesis research were published in the following article:

Koopman, M. M., & Ayers, T. J. 2005.  Nectar spur evolutionin the Mexican lobelias (Campanulaceae: Lobelioideae).  American Journal of Botany 92(3): 558–562.

Rare Plant Ecology

Deaver Herbarium staff and students study plants that are globally rare and of conservation concern. These studies often include common garden experiments, pollination biology, and/or molecular genetics.

For example, Meredith Jabis used both a pollination experiment and population genetics to determine that Abronia alpina, a rare flowering plant, is dependent on insects for both seed production and the maintenance of genetic diversity. Having completed her master’s degree at NAU, Meredith is currently pursuing her doctoral degree at the University of California, Berkeley. The results of her thesis research resulted in the following publication:

Jabis, M. D., Ayers, T. J., & Allan, G. J. 2011. Pollinator-mediated gene flow fosters genetic variability in a narrow alpine endemic Abronia alpine (Nyctaginaceae). American Journal of Botany 98:1583–1594.