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Elena Loke

MS Student


Research topic: How does the incorporation of alleles affect phylogenetic resolution to unravel the evolution of breeding systems in Schiedea, an endemic Hawaiian genus?

Research interests: Phylogenetics; systematics; taxonomy; conservation; endemism; breeding systems.

Major Advisor: Norman Wickett, PhD


 Current Research
Dioecy, the separation of sexes, is common in animals, but is relatively uncommon in flowering plants, occurring in approximately 4-6% of flowering plants worldwide. My project focuses on using phylogenetic methods to unravel the evolution of dioecy in an endemic Hawaiian genus called Schiedea (Caryophyllaceae). This genus is a prime example of recent and rapid adaptive radiation and has a variety of pollination and breeding systems. However, the evolutionary history of breeding systems, specifically dioecy, within Schiedeais currently unresolved.Phylogenetic trees can be used to determine patterns of evolution and are composed of species and gene trees. Sometimes, species and gene trees do not agree in their evolutionary histories; this process is called deep coalescence. Deep coalescence can potentially improve phylogenetic resolution, and Schiedea is a good system in which to test if this is true.Because this genus has many threatened and endangered species, this work will provide a detailed dataset about the evolution of a species-rich island plant genus and may ultimately contribute to best practices for conserving and reintroducing these critically endangered species in the wild to prevent extinction. 

Scholarships and Awards

  • 2020 Sigma Xi Grants-in-Aid of Research
  • 2020 Botanical Society of America Graduate Student Research Award
  • 2020 American Society of Plant Taxonomists Graduate Student Research Award, Rogers McVaugh Award
  • 2020 Plant Biology and Conservation Research Award, Northwestern University
  • 2019-2020 Shaw Fellowship, Northwestern University



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