Nora Gavin-Smyth MS Student


Mate location and genetic augmentation of two Asteraceae species in woodland and prairie fragments.

Major Adviser: Pati Vitt, PhD

Research Interests: Fragmentation; conservation; rarity; breeding systems; genetic rescue; phylogeography; biogeography; evolution of plant diversity; Chicago region; restoration ecology; East Africa; Tanzania; GIS applications in conservation.

Nora in the field

Current Research:

Mating systems can be important predictors of ecological responses to habitat change. In fragmented landscapes where mates are limited, a self-incompatible mating system can result not only in population declines, but also in a reduction of S-alleles that intensifies over time. Through the loss of S-alleles, these populations have increased mate-limitation, further reductions of the effective population size, and a lower threshold for the Allee effect. The threshold is likely to be even lower for self-incompatible species that reproduce clonally. Genetic augmentation could help some species overcome this genetic bottleneck, although it is seldom implemented. My research explores this question via Cirsium hillii (Hill’s thistle) and Eurybia furcata (forked aster), two self-incompatible, clonal, Asteraceae species.

Eurybia furcata (G3/S2)

Eurybia furcatus

This woodland forb has been genetically augmented in some Illinois populations, but due to its clonal growth habit, it’s difficult to discern the effective size of a population. I use seed set resulting from crosses to determine compatible genotypes. Analyzing the spatial distribution of compatible mates in remnant and augmented populations of Eurybia furcata, I hope to better understand the relationship between mate location and reproductive fitness, and the longer-term consequences of genetic augmentation.

Cirsium hillii (G3/S1)

Cirsium hillii

Populations of this gravel prairie endemic are generally isolated in fragments with small populations. Pollinating these flowers with pollen from neighboring populations, I hope to evaluate the immediate effects of genetic augmentation on reproductive fitness.

 Other Projects:

 Botanical illustration:

Botanical illustration

Anacardiaceae seeds

 Somme preserves restoration ecology, Forest Preserves of Cook County:

Somme Woods community

Somme Woods community