We are using DNA data to better understand the fragmentation and recent history of populations of threatened species especially oaks, ashes and magnolias, in the southeastern and western US.
We are working with several threatened species to better understand their in situ conservation status, especially focusing on habitat fragmentation, seed production and dispersal, and inbreeding. For example we work with a threatened shrub oak found in the Western US, called shinnery oak (Quercus havardii). This species is a very small tree which occurs in sand dune habitats. We are analyzing the genetic structure and diversity of this species because most populations are small and fragmented. Small and fragmented populations could cause a conservation threat, as this can cause genetic and reproductive problems in a population. We are investigating various levels of fragmentation from local to regional to range wide, and using DNA markers in order to identify the most threatened populations and to evaluate the conservation status of the species. We also seek to resolve the taxonomic status of threatened species and populations to designate those most in need, and eventually to understand how trees adapted to this harsh environment. For this project we integrate DNA data, trait measurements, ecological and geographic data, GIS, and in situ population observations.
The Morton Arboretum