Principal Investigator

Ruth G. Shaw
Ruth earned her B.A. in Biology at Oberlin College and her Ph.D. in Botany and Genetics at Duke University with Janis Antonovics, followed by a postdoc with Joe Felsenstein at University of Washington.  She was then an Assistant Professor at the University of California, Riverside before she joined the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior at the University of Minnesota in 1993.  In her empirical studies of plant populations, she strives to understand evolutionary change as it is influenced by ecological context.  In support of the empirical research, she has worked toward enhancing statistical capabilities for quantitative genetics and for analysis of fitness. Ruth’s CV.

Graduate students and postdocs

Samantha DelSerra
Ph.D. Student
Sam earned a B.A. in biology from Macalester College in 2012, and went on to receive an M.A. in Applied Evolution through the Department of Ecology and Evolution at Stony Brook University in 2013. Sam is interested in the factors that influence the geographic scale of local adaptation. She is co-advised by Peter Tiffin. Sam’s website.

Shelby_photo_will need compressedShelby Flint
Postdoctoral Research Associate
Shelby earned B.A. degrees in political science and women’s studies from the University of Arizona, a M.S. in Water Resources at the University of New Hampshire with William McDowell, and her Ph.D. in Conservation Biology from the University of Minnesota with Ruth and Nicholas Jordan. Shelby is interested in ecosystem responses to anthropogenic stressors and associated impacts on ecosystem services. Her past work includes investigations of N and C cycling in headwater wetlands, contaminant exposure and effects, international GMO governance, and translocation risks of native plant populations. Shelby’s work with the Healthy Prairies project centers on studies of local adaptation and adaptive capacity in native prairie plant species. Despite never having played basketball herself, she is an avid Minnesota Lynx fan. Shelby’s CV and researchgate profile.

Nicholas_editedNicholas Goldsmith
Ph.D. Candidate
Nicholas joined the Shaw Research Group in 2012 after graduating with his B.S. in Plant Biology from Purdue University. He is interested in the potential of populations to adapt to changing conditions, especially those caused by people. His dissertation research uses quantitative genetic methods to examine the relationship of geographic distance and the potential of a native prairie species (Rudbeckia hirta, Black Eyed Susan) to adapt to roadside conditions. Nicholas’s website.

IMG_3521Kane Keller
Postdoctoral Research Associate                                                                Kane’s research explores the role of species interactions and abiotic and biotic environmental factors on population and community dynamics, patterns of biodiversity, and how direct and indirect interactions in a community context can affect the maintenance of genetic variation and evolutionary responses. For his dissertation in Jen Lau’s lab at the Kellogg Biological Station of Michigan State University, he explored how the mutualism between legumes and nitrogen-fixing rhizobia bacteria influence patterns of diversity, how intraspecific genetic variation in interactions between plants and rhizobia influence subsequent species interactions and community dynamics, and how multiple mutualist interactions, including ants and rhizobia, may interactively and independently influence plant fitness and the residing arthropod community. In the May and Shaw labs, Kane will be exploring how variation in aboveground and belowground plant-microbe interactions across and within populations may affect patterns of selection and the geographic scale of local adaptation of plant hosts and their host-associated microbes, and the interactions between symbionts associating with a shared host. Kane’s website.

mason_photoMason Kulbaba
Postdoctoral Research Associate
Mason earned a BSc (4-year, honors) from University of Winnipeg, and a PhD from University of Manitoba with Anne Worley, followed by a postdoc with Lawrence Harder and Sam Yeaman at University of Calgary.  His past research has examined how selection on floral traits by multiple effective pollinators shape floral designs (Polemonium brandegeei), and the role of negative-frequency dependent selection on plant phenology strategies (Delphinium glaucum).  Mason’s current research explores the immediate capacity for adaptation in natural populations of Chamaecrista fasciculata, and evaluating the extent to which adaptation is realized.  He is also using a theoretical approach to address the recurrence of male sterility in plants, and empirically evaluating the interactive effects of population density and inbreeding on overall fitness.  Finally, Mason is a loyal Winnipeg Jets fan and is determined to convert the rest of his lab-mates on the importance of hockey.

Ph.D. Student
Anna received a B.A. in environmental studies with a biology focus from Macalester College in 2008. From 2008-2012 she worked as a seasonal biological technician for native plant restoration and research projects in various regions of the United States. In August 2014 she received an M.S. in Conservation Ecology from the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment. She currently works as a research assistant for the Healthy Prairies Project, which seeks to discover the scale of local adaptation, as well as the adaptive capacity, for plant species in the prairie region of Minnesota. Anna’s CV.

Naomi_photoNaomi Rushing
Ph.D. Student
Naomi earned her B.A. in general science with concentrations in biology and environmental studies from Grinnell College.  After graduating she worked as a biological science technician at Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge and at Iowa State University, and more recently as a Minnesota Master Naturalist Instructor at the Carleton College Cowling Arboretum.  Naomi is interested in the consequences of translocating plant populations during prairie restoration efforts and in the scale of local adaptation of native prairie plant species.

Research staff

Rachel_photo_notfinalRachel Pain
Senior Lab Technician
Rachel received her B.A in biology with an environmental studies concentration from St. Olaf College in 2013. After graduation, she worked as a field technician for several agroecology labs at the University of Minnesota. In the spring of 2014, she began working with the Chamaecrista Project, studying the capacity for ongoing adaptation, using partridge pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata) populations.

 gullickson_profilepicMatthew Gullickson
Research Plot Technician
Matthew received his B.A. in biology from Gustavus Adolphus College in 2016.  After graduation, he worked for The Nature Conservancy and Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve as a field technician specializing in plant identification and prairie ecology.  He began working with the Healthy Prairies Project in September of 2016.

whitneywatson_photoWhitney Watson
Research Plot Technician
Whitney received a B.A. in biology with a minor in mathematics from Macalester College in 2012. Since graduation she has worked as an English Teacher in South Korea and with Three Rivers Park District in forestry and wildlife management. She joined the Healthy Prairies team in August of 2016.

 Undergraduate research assistants and volunteers


Will Reed


Emma Boehm

Former graduate students

Amber Eule-Nashoba (Plant Biological Sciences), Ph.D. 2016: “Fitness and adaptive capacity in a Minnesota prairie”. Future Faculty Fellow, Northeastern University.

Shelby Flint (Conservation Biology, coadvisor N. Jordan), Ph.D. 2015: “Translocating Panicum virgatum L.: Performance, community impact, and competitive outcome”. Postdoctoral Associate, University of Minnesota

Marcus Warwell (Ecology, Evolution & Behavior), Ph.D. 2015: “Genecology and phenotypic evolution of whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) and ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) under warm-dry climate”.  Geneticist, US Forest Service

Gina Quiram (Ecology, Evolution & Behavior, coadvisor J. Cavender-Bares), Ph.D. 2013: “The ecology and evolution of an invasive perennial plant (Lythrum salicaria) in the context of biological control by specialist herbivores (Galerucella spp.)”. Lecturer, College of Continuing Education, University of Minnesota. Gina’s LinkedIn profile.

Amy Dykstra (Plant Biological Sciences), Ph.D. 2013: “Seedling recruitment in fragmented populations of Echinacea angustifolia”. Assistant Professor, Bethel University. Amy’s website.

John Stanton-Geddes (Ecology, Evolution & Behavior, coadvisor P. Tiffin), Ph.D. 2011: “Limits to range expansion in the native annual legume, Chamaecrista fasciculata”. Data Scientist,

Rachel Mills (Plant Biological Sciences), M.S. 2008. “Evolutionary divergence of the invasive prairie species Melilotus officinalis”. Arctic Slope Regional Corp. Energy Service

Laurie Goldsmith (née Stone, Plant Biological Sciences, coadvisor P. Tiffin), M.S. 2007: “CO2, N, and Biodiversity Effects on Phenotypic Selection and Demography of Native Grassland Perennials”. Harmony Wildflowers, Blue Thumb

Kristin Mercer (Applied Plant Sciences, coadvisor D. Wyse), Ph.D. 2005: “Seed germination, growth and fitness in crop-wild sunflower hybrids from multiple genetic backgrounds: genetic and environmental effects on evolution of wild populations”. Assistant Professor, Ohio State University

Jason Hill (Plant Biological Sciences), Ph. D.2004: “Effects of spontaneous mutation on fitness of Arabidopsis thaliana”. Associate Professor, Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, University of Minnesota

Eric Lonsdorf (Ecology, Evolution & Behavior, coadvisor D. Alstad), Ph.D. 2003: “Consequences of inbreeding in fragmented habitat for plant populations and communities”. Research Associate in Biology, Franklin and Marshall College

Stacey Halpern (Ecology, Evolution & Behavior, coadvisor P. Morrow), Ph.D. 2003: “Evaluating the potential for adaptation to climate change in Lupinus perennis”. Associate Professor, Pacific University

Nadilia Gomez (Plant Biological Sciences, coadvisor G. May), M.S. 2001: “Effect of inbreeding on male and female fertility of Nemophila menziesii”. (Ph.D. 2005, Applied Plant Sciences, Univ. of Minnesota). Data and Analytics Lead, DuPont Pioneer.

Christina Kavanaugh (Plant Biological Sciences), M.S. 2000: “The effects of spontaneous mutation on fitness and response to shading in Arabidopsis thaliana”. Greenhouse System Improvement Lead, Monsanto

David Heiser (Ecology, Evolution & Behavior), M.S. 2000: “Fitness effects of outcrossing and the occurrence of insect-mediated cross-pollination in Calylophus serrulatus, a prairie perennial”. Head of Education and Outreach, Peabody Museum, Yale University

Julie Etterson (Ecology, Evolution & Behavior), Ph.D. 2000: “Evolutionary potential of the annual legume, Chamaecrista fasciculata, in relation to global warming”. Associate Professor, University of Minnesota-Duluth

Elizabeth Svenson, (Ecology, coadvisor P. Morrow), M.S. 1995: “Response of prairie species and old-field vegetation in an experimental restoration from seed”.

Robert Podolsky, (Plant Genetics, UC-Riverside), Ph.D. 1994: “Population genetic structure of Clarkia dudleyana”. Associate Professor, Wayne State University

Former postdoctoral associates

Seema Sheth, 2014-2015 – NSF Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Integrative Biology and the University and Jepson Herbaria, University of California at Berkeley. Seema’s website.

Caroline Ridley, 2008-09 – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Jen Lau, 2005-07 –Professor Michigan State University

Helen Hangelbroek, 2003-05

Stuart Wagenius, 2000-02 –Conservation Scientist, Northwestern University

Shumei Chang, 1999-2001 – Associate Professor, University of Georgia

Diane Byers, 1993-98- Associate Professor, Illinois State University

Stefan Andersson, 1992-93 – Professor, Lund University

Gerrit A.J. Platenkamp, 1988-91 –Environmental Consultant

Former staff & research assistants

Laura Seefeldt, 2015 – Healthy Prairies Lab/Field Technician

Thorin Gustafson, 2015 – Healthy Prairies field assistant

Lily Brown, 2014-15 – Healthy Prairies lab assistant

Ian Carriere, 2014-15 – Healthy Prairies lab assistant

Santi Charry, 2014-5 – Healthy Prairies lab & data assistant

Erin Karan, 2014-15 – Healthy Prairies lab & greenhouse assistant

Kayla Witt, 2014-15 – Healthy Prairies lab, greenhouse & field assistant

Jillian Riley, 2014 – Healthy Prairies seed collection

Brittany Dilley, 2012-14 – Healthy Prairies seed collection & lab assistant

Sam Weaver, 2014 – NSF REU student, St. Olaf College – Chamaecrista Project

Dana Olofson, 2013 – Chamaecrista Project lab assistant

Storm Autio

Kelsey Scareshawk

Andrew Heiserman