Speaker: Sarah Jacobs
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The plant genus Castilleja (the iconic group of wildflowers more commonly known as “the paintbrushes”) is a very young and diverse group of plants found primarily in western North America. Taxonomy in the genus has been challenging, resulting in its notoriety as a “difficult group.” Much of the difficulty has been attributed to its young age, the apparent ease of hybridization when species co-occur, and complicated genetics. This talk will broadly cover the biology of Castilleja, what we do (and don’t) know about its evolution, and how Jacobs’ research is aiming to fill in the gaps. She will also highlight the challenge of defining species in lineages like Castilleja and what that means for systematics and taxonomy in the group.
Sarah Jacobs, PhD, is assistant curator of botany at the California Academy of Sciences and Howell Chair of Western North American Botany. Her research focuses on characterizing the evolutionary drivers of plant diversity by examining young lineages like Castilleja. She received her PhD at the University of Idaho where she amassed large data sets to sort out tangled species relationships. One of her goals is to create a general framework that can be applied to other plant lineages, with the aim of asking broader questions about the evolution of species in western North America. With her background in biodiversity research and natural history collections, she will continue the Academy’s strong legacy in western North American botany by expanding the institution’s collection to include more flora from across the West.