Katherine Wenzell PhD Student

Advisors: Dr. Jeremie Fant and Dr. Krissa Skogen

Research Interests: Pollination ecology, floral trait evolution, reproductive isolation, hybridization, populations genetics, speciation

Dissertation Research: Do pollinators drive floral divergence?: Connecting floral traits, pollinators, and genetic structure across geography in Castilleja

My research examines floral traits, major pollinators, and population genetics in two related groups of Castilleja (the paintbrushes). Castilleja sessiliflora (downy paintbrush) displays intraspecific floral trait variation across its wide geographic range, while the three species of the C. purpurea complex (recently elevated from varieties) show divergence in inflorescence color between species over much shorter geographic clines. My work aims to document the major pollinators and floral traits across the ranges of these groups in order to assess whether divergence in major pollinators may mirror divergence in floral traits. I will also analyze genetic differentiation among these groups at neutral markers, using microsatellites, to assess levels of gene flow within and among species of Castilleja, a genus marked by frequent hybridization. Taken together, my research seeks to connect the dots between geographic variation in floral traits, major pollinators, and neutral gene flow both within and between plant species. This work will shed light on the role of pollinators in driving the evolution of floral traits and the diversification of flowering plants.

Pollinators on flora

View of the field

Fellowships, Grants and Awards

2017- present  National Science Foundation, Graduate Research Fellowship Program

2018  American Philosophical Society, Lewis and Clark Fund Research Award ($4,900)

2018  Illinois Native Plant Society, Research Grant ($1,350)

2017, 2018  Friends of Nachusa Grasslands, Scientific Research Grant ($2,300)

2017  Botanical Society of America, Graduate Student Research Award ($500)

Katie in the field