Systematics (including the field of taxonomy) is the science of classification, naming, and identification of living things. Systematists develop classification systems that reflect evolutionary relationships (phylogenies) between organisms. These systems in turn provide the framework for interpreting the attributes and behavior of all organisms. They are critical to our understanding and protection of biodiversity. In my lab, I conduct systematics research on sedges (Carex), a group of grass-like plants comprised of over 2000 species. Sedges are one of the most widespread and ecologically important groups of flowering plants. In Canada, they dominate vast areas of the north, and many wetland and forested habitats. Despite the significance of sedges, many species are considered difficult to distinguish from one another (taxonomically complex) and phylogenetic relationships are only beginning to be understood. The long-term objectives of my research are to gain a better understanding of taxonomically difficult groups and to produce a revised phylogeny of these plants.
Apart from my work on sedges, I am interested in the population genetics and reproductive biology of the endangered small white lady’s slipper orchid (Cypripedium candidum) and putative hybrids that are formed with the yellow lady’s slipper (C. parviflorum). We have also been examining the role of micro- evolutionary forces acting upon widespread, parasitic angiosperms by studying the population genetic structure of dwarf mistletoe species (Arceuthobium spp.) and their coniferous hosts.
In addition to my primary research interests, I am a regional editor for the Flora of North America Project and a member of the Board of Directors. I also curate the University of Manitoba’s Herbarium (WIN).