Chamaecrista Project: Potential for adaptation, and its realization, in natural plant populations
Theory underlying the process of adaptive evolution is well established, yet few empirical studies have assessed how well the potential rate of adaptation predicts realized adaptation in natural populations. Using Chamaecrista fasciculata (partridge pea) populations from Minnesota and Iowa (in collaboration with Dr. Vince Eckhart at Grinnell College), we are performing quantitative genetic experiments in nature to characterize how a population’s genetic variability affects the rate of adaptation over several generations. In addition to increasing our understanding of the capacity for adaptation in natural populations, this research will facilitate assessments of whether populations can adapt rapidly enough to keep up with the pace of climate change. The specific objectives of this research are to:
1) characterize the immediate capacity for ongoing adaptation to current conditions in nature
2) evaluate the extent to which that adaptive potential is realized, and
3) elucidate causes of discrepancies.