There is so much happening in the lab this summer, that it will take several posts to catch up on all the news. Fieldwork for the “Testing Adaptive Radiation Theory in Penstemon (Plantaginaceae)” project started in May. Paul Blischak and I had two field trips – first to Utah where we collected 57 accessions (48 of them unique), including about a dozen species that we did not previously have in the survey. We also increased our sampling of subspecific taxa – a huge bonus. Mike Stevens, from Brigham Young University, was our expert in the field – the guy with the “boots on the ground” experience to know where all the rare and little-known species of Penstemon occur in Utah. Thanks, Mike! We couldn’t have had as much success without your willingness to travel with us for three weeks.
Our second field trip was combined with the American Penstemon Society meeting, which was based in Chico, California. Paul and I arrived July 4 – not the best day to be traveling – and we finished our California species sampling by collecting tissue samples and stems for P. tracyi, P. filiformis, and P. sudans. Highlights of this excursion included seeing P. personatus up close and personal. This is such an interesting species – the sole member of subgenus Cryptostemon – it has a very unusual corolla, which intrigues me. I’ll do a Penstemon of the day post on this after I’m done traveling for the summer.
Eight very talented undergraduate students have been busy in the lab all summer – mostly working on Penstemon projects (conservation genetics, population genetics, testing methods of analyses with hybrid complexes, and assisting Aaron Wenzel with his dissertation research projects). We’re also building a very thorough database on Penstemon from morphology to literature, photos, and locality data. This project will feed into our Penstemon website that is currently in beta testing. The blog will be updated often during the next few months to share our results and to add to our Penstemon of the Day series.
Here are just a few samples of what we collected this summer: