Ellen Simms

Ellen Simms

Title
Professor of Integrative Biology
Department
Dept of Integrative Biology
Research Expertise and Interest
evolution, plant ecology, microbial ecology, ecological genetics, symbiosis, herbivores, pathogens, mutualists
Research Description

The broad goal of our research is to understand evolution in natural populations. We are especially interested in the evolutionary implications of ecological interactions between plants and other organisms, including herbivores, pathogens, and mutualists. We continue to focus on ecological and physiological trade-offs and genetic mechanisms that constrain the evolution of plant traits important to these interactions. We also apply ecological and evolutionary theory to study evolution of cooperation, plant conservation, and control of invasive species. Ongoing projects in the lab include examining: (1) mutualistic co-evolution between legumes and nitrogen-fixing bacteria, (2) effects of seed predation and herbivory on population dynamics and evolution in bush lupine (Lupinus arboreus), and (3) effects of plant pathogens on plant community dynamics. Current graduate students are studying (1) dynamics of experimental bacterial metapopulations, and (2) ectomycorrhizal interactions with pines. Past graduate students have studied evolution of symbiotic genes in cyanobacteria, population differentiation in annual California lupines, patterns of symbiotic specificity of orchid-mycorrhizal interactions in Cypripedium orchids., the effects of clonal reproduction on spatial patterns of alleles in orchid populations, inbreeding depression in Lobelia cardinalis, and the evolution of seed dispersal in the sand dune annual, Cakile edentula.

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