Anne Beulke, Undergraduate Student
University of Minnesota
Cavender-Bares Lab

Host institution: University of Notre-Dame
Host Lab: Romero-Severson Lab

The live oaks in series Virentes of the genus Quercus, though a small clade on the oak Tree of Life, spark the interest of researchers in multiple fields. The species in Virentes span the tropical- temperate divide, a region where climate shifts may have driven fundamental changes in adaptive responses. I will be studying the diversification of four live oak species across Central America to understand the physiological and genetic adaptations that occurred in response to climate conditions. In the field I will participate in research focusing on oak fitness at various life stages in relation to water availability at two sites in Costa Rica that differ in seasonal precipitation patterns. In the lab I will sequence candidate genes in the four oak species to look for evidence of microevolution of drought tolerance across a hydrological gradient in Central America. The fitness component measurements of oaks in common garden plots subject to different levels of water stress and the DNA sequence data from the same oaks will enable me to compare the response to water stress with changes in DNA sequences.


Gracie Benson-Martin, Undergraduate Student
University of California, Berkeley
Specht Lab

Host institution: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Host Lab: Kress Lab

As an undergraduate researcher I have been working as part of a larger, NSF funded study in Heliconia for over a year. Dr. Specht's research is broadly focused on the evolutionary ecology, phylogeny, and the genetic programs underlying floral development in the Zingiberales. My experience in the Specht Lab has introduced me to the practical tools and theory of molecular phylogenetics as well as those of molecular developmental biology. At the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History I will be working under principal investigator and curator Dr. John Kress, a systematist and expert in Heliconiaceae. This collaboration brings together my background in molecular genetics and evolutionary ecology with the expertise in systematics and morphology of Dr. Kress. Completing this internship will give provide the singular opportunity to work alongside a world-renowned research scientist in an unmatched research setting.