Research in the Kellar Lab focuses on discovering genetic and morphological variation in disparate groups of flowering plants. Incorporating both classical and state-of-the-art techniques, my lab addresses questions in plant systematics, species identification, and biodiversity investigations. I am interested in revealing how evolutionary history has led to the diverse range of biodiversity in ecosystems across the planet and in applying phylogeny to taxonomic classifications, ecological studies, and conservation planning.
Phylogenetic Diversity (PD) measures the differences between taxa in an evolutionary tree and may be used as a biodiversity assessment tool. Multiple PD metrics have been developed to describe biodiversity beyond simple species counts, but sufficient empirical studies have not been conducted to provide basic biological understanding of PD in varying ecosystems or to provide conservation planners and policy makers with evidence for incorporating phylogenetic diversity into selection of priority regions for preservation. My research is addressing this gap by comparing the 17 most common PD metrics and four traditional measures of diversity between grassland sites that span the latitudinal diversity gradient.
Taxonomic Revision – Delineation between closely related plant species requires discovery and description of both molecular and morphological characters unique to each species. My lab identifies and investigates plant species for which taxonomic placement may be in question. At present, we are investigating the following: 1) Diplazium Laffanianum, a Bermudian fern in the Athyriaceae, 2) an isolated population of Cypripedium (lady’s slipper) orchids in eastern Nebraska, and 3) taxonomic distinction between Psoralidium tenuiflorum and P. floribundum (Fabaceae) in the Great Plains.