Fern and Lycophyte Taxonomy and Evolution

The Taxonomy and Evolution of Ferns and Lycophytes Program at BRIT is led by Research Botanist Dr. Alejandra Vasco.

The Program focuses broadly on taxonomy, systematics, and evolution of these two plant lineages. We ask questions about species diversity, evolutionary relationships among taxa, trait evolution using comparative methods, and the role that genes play in plant morphological diversity. Our work, whether on ferns or lycophytes, integrates techniques from several disciplines, including traditional specimen-based research in herbaria, fieldwork, anatomy, phylogenetic systematics, and evolutionary genomics. We are a diverse team with many ongoing projects.  

Current Research

Ferns of Colombia

Colombia is estimated to harbor the highest fern diversity of any Neotropical country, with more than 1600 native fern species currently documented.

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Taxonomy and Systematics of Ferns and Lycophytes

We are interested in what the species of ferns and lycophytes are and where they occur—something often poorly known for tropical species—and the evolutionary relationships among the species. We generate phylogenetic trees based on DNA sequences that show how the species are related and use the trees as a framework for answering questions about character evolution, biogeography, and evolutionary processes.

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Evolution and Development of Leaves

The evolution of leaves changed life on Earth. We study the expression and phylogeny of leaf development genes in lycophytes and ferns to better understand the evolution and development of leaves in the land plants.

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