Welcome! I'm a Lecturer in Plant Systematics at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Although I'm fascinated by all aspects of biology, I'm particularly interested in studying the evolutionary history of plants to learn more about the origin of biodiversity. Most of my research projects are centered around Tribe Senecioneae (Asteraceae), Philippine Rafflesia (Rafflesiaceae), and Philippine plant diversity.

The evolutionary history of Tribe Senecioneae

Senecioneae is one of the largest tribes in the Asteraceae (ca. 3,100 species and 155 genera), has a nearly cosmopolitan distribution, and shows remarkable morphological and ecological diversity. Senecio is the largest genus with approximately 1,000 species, and its size and taxonomic complexity has been a significant obstacle to studies into the evolutionary history of the tribe itself. To better understand the evolutionary success of Senecioneae and similarly large plant groups, we are taking a molecular phylogenetics approach to study the evolutionary relationships and mode and tempo of diversification of the Senecioneae.

Ligularia dentata

The biodiversity and conservation of Philippine Rafflesia

The tropical Southeast Asian genus Rafflesia (Rafflesiaceae) is one of the few parasitic plants that are entirely contained within the tissue of their host plants, which are exclusively lianas of the genus Tetrastigma (Vitaceae). Rafflesia only emerges to produce its spectacular flowers, which are the largest of all flowering plants and may reach a diameter of 1.5 m. in R. arnoldii. Rafflesia has become an icon of Southeast Asian biodiversity, exemplifying the wonders and beauty of tropical rainforests. Our studies of Philippine Rafflesia aim to make this charismatic genus an icon of conservation by demonstrating how knowledge of the taxonomic diversity, ecology, and evolutionary history of Rafflesia contributes to its conservation.

Rafflesia manillana

Co's Digital Flora of the Philippines

The rapid decline of Philippines’ native ecosystems calls for urgent conservation actions and these require solid baseline information about plant diversity. Ideally, these data would follow from comprehensive specimen-based taxonomic research and would consist of species descriptions, literature references, identification keys and distribution information. However, considering the enormous plant diversity in the Philippines (c. 1935 genera and over 9000 species of vascular plants), such a ‘traditional’ approach would be extremely time consuming and would depend on substantial contributions of many taxonomic specialists. Considering the urgent need for baseline data, waiting for such efforts to be initiated and completed is not an option. Dan Nickrent, Julie Barcelona and myself therefore recently launched Co’s Digital Flora of the Philippines (www.philippineplants.org), a website that provides an illustrated checklist for all known species of vascular plants in the Philippines. This website builds on the late Mr. Leonardo L. Co’s unpublished checklist of Philippine plants and his large collection of plant photographs (>10,000). The aim of the Flora is to be a widely and freely accessible source of taxonomic information that can be easily updated and expanded as new traditional taxonomic treatments are published and additional plant photographs become available.

Entada phaseoloides
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