Spatial phylogenetics of native vascular plants in the Mojave National Preserve
Biodiversity is essential for providing ecosystem services to humans in addition to supporting ecological networks. While conservation efforts have prioritized protecting biodiversity hotspots in recent years, desert biomes remain undervalued, even as climate change threatens dryland ecosystems.
For the past two semesters, I have worked on a project which seeks to better understand how environmental variables have shaped evolutionary processes underlying biogeographical patterns of native vascular plant communities in the Mojave National Preserve. This summer, I will learn wet lab techniques to extract and sequence genetic information from the specimens I collected during a field survey, which I will use to construct a phylogenetic tree of the plants in my study site. Additionally, I will apply geospatial techniques to analyze species occurrence data in order to determine the extent to which abiotic components influence the distribution of organisms within this ecosystem.