The research team is working with several threatened species to better understand their in situ conservation status, especially focusing on habitat fragmentation, seed production and dispersal, and inbreeding. One example is a threatened shrub oak found in the Western United States, shinnery oak (Quercus havardii). This species is a very small tree that occurs in sand dune habitats. The team is analyzing the genetic structure and diversity of this species because most populations are small and fragmented. Small and fragmented populations could cause a conservation threat, as this can cause genetic and reproductive problems in a population. We are doing similar work in other rare oaks (Q. boyntonii, acerifolia, ajoensis, georgiana, to name a few), and ash and magnolia species. We are investigating various levels of fragmentation from local to regional to rangewide, and using DNA markers in order to identify the most threatened populations and to evaluate the conservation status of the species.
The team also seeks to resolve the taxonomic status of threatened species and populations to designate those most in need and eventually to understand how trees adapted to this harsh environment. This project integrates DNA data, trait measurements, ecological and geographic data, GIS, and in situ population observations.