Dr. Morgan Gostel joined BRIT in July as a Research Botanist. He comes to BRIT from the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History where he was a postdoctoral fellow. At BRIT, Dr. Gostel will focus on his research interests in plant systematics and evolution and also continue international botanical outreach efforts as Director of the Global Genome Initiative for Gardens (GGI-Gardens).
Morgan’s research combines traditional taxonomy with phylogenomic tools to document and describe plant diversity and to pursue questions of broad significance regarding biogeography and plant evolution. His work focuses mostly on plants in the angiosperm families Asteraceae (i.e., daisies and sunflowers) and Burseraceae (i.e., the myrrh genus, Commiphora). Toward these interests, Morgan has been involved in the development of new approaches for common techniques using technology that makes phylogenomic research more cost-efficient and accessible to a broader community of researchers. He is especially interested in the evolution of species diversity in dry tropical forests and the plants that inhabit them. He has performed fieldwork throughout Madagascar and Brazil, where related plants occupy similar habitats despite vast distances, halfway across the globe. Some of the questions Morgan’s work hopes to answer include: how did these plants arrive here and what about their evolutionary history makes them specially adapted to thrive in these areas?
As Director of GGI-Gardens, Morgan has worked to develop an international network of botanical gardens in an effort to preserve plant genomic diversity in biorepositories (facilities that store organismal tissues specifically for genetic research. Working with teams of interns and with garden partners, Morgan organizes collecting efforts aimed at preserving plant diversity that is currently not represented in biorepositories, to safeguard genetic resources of plant species on Earth.