Deaver Herbarium research
Floristic inventories at the Deaver Herbarium
Floristic inventories are catalogs of biological diversity at specific localities. These inventories are compilations of all historical botanical explorations combined with intensive multiyear collecting expeditions designed to discover all plants that occur in a particular area. Besides determining a total number of species for an area, floristic inventories result in the discovery of new state records, geographical distributions, and species new to science. Floristic inventories record non-native species and often track populations of rare, endemic species.
Vascular flora of the San Francisco Peaks Accordion Closed
Will Moir compiled more than 800 species records for vascular plants of the San Francisco Peaks in northern Arizona. These historical collections include specimens collected by Elbert Little, James Morefield, the late Jim Rominger, and many NAU graduate students, including Clark Schaack and Laurie Paulik.
Deaver Herbarium staff members are still actively hunting the San Francisco Peaks for species that have not been found in the past 20 to 80 years, to revise the floristic inventory of the area created by Will, who is now living in northern California. Vascular Flora of the San Francisco Peaks (3rd edition), an online resource, provides the most current inventory of the vascular plants of the San Francisco Peaks, including life zones, environments, and species list.
Floristic inventory of the pinyon-juniper woodlands in the San Francisco Peaks volcanic field Accordion Closed
Kyle Christie completed a floristic inventory of the pinyon-juniper woodlands in the volcanic field of Arizona’s San Francisco Peaks. He documented new species to Arizona and Coconino County. Kyle’s research showed that Colorado Plateau pinyon-juniper woodland is species rich and very different from the pinyon-juniper woodlands found below the Mogollon Rim. Kyle’s master’s thesis includes an analysis of floristic regions that have contributed to the Colorado Plateau pinyon-juniper woodlands and also correlates vegetation communities to the age of the substrate in the San Francisco Peaks volcanic field. Related publications include the following:
Christie, K. 2008. Vascular flora and floristic analysis of the lower San Francisco Volcanic Field, Coconino County, Arizona. Madrono 55:1-14.
Christie, K. 2009. Phytogeography and floristics of pinyon-juniper woodlands in northern Arizona. Western North American Naturalist 69(2):155-164.
Floristic inventory of Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Apache County, Arizona Accordion Closed
A floristic inventory for Canyon de Chelly National Monument was completed by Glenn Rink as his thesis project. This inventory identified 649 species from 90 families. The Southwest Environmental Information Network, or SEINet, includes the checklist for Canyon de Chelly National Monument. The following article includes a checklist for the vascular plans of Canyon de Chelly National Monument:
Rink, G. 2005. A checklist of the vascular flora of Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Apache County, Arizona. The Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society 132(3): 510-532.
Ethnobotany of the San Francisco Peaks
The ethnobotanical flora of Arizona’s San Francisco Peaks was documented by Kristin Kampe in her master’s thesis, which focused on medicinal and ceremonial plants used by 13 Native American Tribes that find the area sacred. This medicinal flora provides a comparative analysis of plant usage by these Tribes on the basis of application as well as by distribution of species.
Henningsen, K., T. Ayers, R. Scott, and P. Hogan. 2011. Medicinal flora of the San Francisco Peaks in northern Arizona: a historical compilation. Journal of the American Herbalists Guild 10(2): 18.22.
Discovery of new biodiversity
Sometimes botanical research leads to the discovery of species new to science. Student and staff members affiliated with the Deaver Herbarium have described new species that have been discovered as the result of floristic inventories, general collecting, or while doing revisions and monographs, which are intensive studies of a single genus of plants.
Several Deaver Herbarium students have discovered new taxa and varieties of vascular plants. For example, Suzanne Rhodes, who received an undergraduate degree in botany from NAU in 1998 and has remained active with the herbarium for the past 15 years, discovered two new taxa while doing field work in northern Arizona. Suzanne described the new taxa as two different Scutellaria species. Similarly, Robin Taylor described a new variety of Salvia (Salvia pachyphylla ssp. eremopictus) endemic to northeastern Arizona. Robin found that most populations are restricted to Chinle shale substrate that forms the Painted Desert area near Winslow and Holbrook, Arizona. The following publications document the discovery of these new taxa and varieties:
Rhodes, S. L., & Ayers, T. J. 2010. Two new taxa of Scutellaria section Resinosa (Lamiaceae) from Northern Arizona. Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas 4(1):19-26.
Taylor, R. M., & Ayers, T. J. 2006. Systematics of Salvia pachyphylla (Lamiaceae). Madrono 53 (1):11-24.
Understanding the evolutionary history of plants
Phylogenetic studies help researchers understand how plants are related to each other and how morphology, or the form and structure of organisms, evolves in response to changing environments or pollinators. These studies are important to understanding the biogeography, or distribution, of a species, including where it evolved and how its geographical area has changed through time.
For example, Deaver Herbarium undergraduate student Maggie Koopman used DNA sequencing to determine that nectar spurs evolved only once in the family Campanulaceae and are a significant indicator of evolutionary relationship within the Mexican lobeliads. Maggie completed her doctoral degree at the University of Wisconsin and is now an Associate Professor at Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti. The results of Maggie’s thesis research while an undergraduate at NAU were published in the following article:
Koopman, M. M., & Ayers, T. J. 2005. Nectar spur evolution in the Mexican lobelias (Campanulaceae: Lobelioideae). American Journal of Botany 92(3): 558-562.
Rare plant ecology
Deaver Herbarium staff and students study plants that are globally rare and of conservation concern. These studies often include collecting ecological data, common garden experiments, pollination biology, and/or molecular genetics.
As part of her master’s thesis research, Meredith Jabis used both a pollination experiment and population genetics to determine that Abronia alpina, a rare flowering plant, is dependent on insects for both seed production and the maintenance of genetic diversity. Having completed her master’s degree at NAU, Meredith is currently pursuing her doctoral degree at the University of California, Berkeley. The results of her thesis research resulted in the following publications:
Jabis, M. D., Ayers, T. J., & Allan, G. J. 2011. Pollinator-mediated gene flow fosters genetic variability in a narrow alpine endemic Abronia alpine(Nyctaginaceae). American Journal of Botany 98:1583-1594.
Elizabeth Johnson helped demonstrate that a federally listed plant, Packera franciscana, endemic to the San Francisco peaks is hybridizing with a lower elevation relative. After completing her master’s degree at NAU Elizabeth accepted a position as Collections Manager of the Garrett Herbarium at the University of Utah, Salt Lake.
Johnson, E. and T. Ayers. 2015. Hybridization of a globally rare plant, the San Francisco Peaks Groundsel (Packera franciscana) with a lower elevation congener: evidence from morphometric and molecular data. Southwestern Naturalist 60(1): 56-60.