Nora Gavin-smyth MS Student

Major Adviser: Pati Vitt, PhD

Research: Fitness consequences of mate location and genetic augmentation in Asteraceae species

Research Interests: Conservation; rarity; restoration ecology; mating systems; genetic rescue; biogeography; 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 furcatus (forked aster), two self-incompatible, clonal, Asteraceae species.

Eurybia furcatus

Eurybia furcatus

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

Cirsium hillii

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

Restoration ecology in Forest Preserves of Cook County

Botanical illustration