Biology professor receives grant from National Science Foundation

Biology professor receives grant from National Science Foundation A professor from the biology department at The University of South Dakota was recently awarded a grant to further her research on endangered plant species.

Molly Nepokroeff of the biology department received a grant from the National Science Foundation for her project, "Phylogeography of Hawaiian Schiedea: A Multigene Coalescent Approach." The project received funding to study endangered plant species diversification and will aid both undergraduate students and professionals.

The three-year grant worth $356,101 will fund the project, which will involve training for one female postdoctoral associate and will also provide opportunities for undergraduate involvement for ten students who will receive training in laboratory skills, data analysis, research presentation and manuscript preparation.

The genus Schiedea represents an excellent example for scientists to use to examine the way in which many different species evolve from a single common ancestor. Schiedea branched off into one of the largest varied groups of plants, around 30 species. Studies of how Schiedea reproduces have also become classic examples of how species diversity can occur along island chains. Because this type of plant research is less well-studied than that of animals, the study will contribute to an important developing field.

Lastly, over half of the 33 species in the Schiedea lineage are federally endangered or rare and several have already gone extinct in the wild. Indeed, Schiedea may contain more highly threatened plant species that any other lineage in Hawaii. These studies will result in public access to online information about 14 endangered species of Schiedea which may aid efforts by state agencies to recover the endangered species.

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