Investigating the conservation value of edge populations using Sundial Lupines
In Canada, more than 75% of vascular plants that are protected by the Species at Risk Act are only found at the northermost edge of their range towards the US-Canada border. These populations could be valuable for conservation because they are geographically positioned to drive northward expansion under climate warming. However, how conservation managers should protect these populations, or whether their conservation value is truly significant, may depend upon many genetic characteristics.
I'm studying the conservation value of edge populations using Sundial Lupines (Lupinus perennis), a potentially at-risk plant found in southern Ontario. The plant is also an important food source to at least 3 at-risk butterfly species, including the Karner Blue Butterfly (now extirpated in Canada) and the mottled duskywing (endangered but undergoing recovery).
My research focuses on 4 main questions:
Are edge populations uniquely adapted to their local environmental conditions?
Do selective forces differ between edge and core populations, and do these forces maintain adaptive genetic variation?
Can we use this knowledge to predict future (mal)adaptation across space?
Can assisted gene flow improve fitness at and beyond the edge of the species geographical distribution?
Do edge populations differ in their capacity to tolerate novel environmental conditions?
A few of the sites I have visited so far...
High Park in Toronto, ON, Canada
Toledo Metropark in Ohio, USA
Indiana Dunes State Park in Indiana, USA
Maas Family Nature Preserve in Michigan, USA
Follow me on twitter for occassional updates!
OCT 2023: I completed a second round of transplants at my field sites. Weather was thankfully very warm this year round!
AUG 2023: I attended ConGen 2023 near Kalispell, Montana. I'm learning techniques to analyze low coverage whole genome sequence data.
JULY 2023:Gabrielle Tai and Nicole Cappellazzo, two field assistants, spearheaded the assisted gene flow experiment.
MAY 2023: I'm heading back out to the field again! I'll be checking on my reciprocal transplants PLUS visiting new sites in New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. It's going to be a lot of driving... podcast recommendations needed.
APRIL 2023: I completed my qualifying exams! I'm a PhD candidate now!
FEBRUARY 2023: I started growing lupines at McGill's Phytotron in preparation for the assisted gene flow study.
JANUARY 2023: With funding from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI), the Hargreaves and Schoen labs completed a reference genome assembly for Lupinus perennis. This work will add to the extremely limited, but growing list of conservation-relevant species with reference genomes.
OCTOBER 2022 - I transplanted seed from across the species' range at 3 Canadian and 3 American sites to understand the degree of local adaptation.
MAY/JUNE 2022 - I travelled with Maggie Blondeau (M.Sc student) to southern Ontario, Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana in search of Sundial Lupines (Lupinus perennis). We collected seed and leaf material for future experiments.
Fellowship Funding and Support
My research is generously supported by Mrs. and Dr. Milton Leong (McGillU, Faculty of Science), Dr. Richard H. Tomlinson (McGill University), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), a Quebec Centre for Biodiversity Science Excellence Award (QCBS), and grants through the Hargreaves lab (NSERC-FQRNT NOVA, NSERC, CFI).
The Nature Conservancy
US National Park Service
University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum
US Fish & Wildlife Service
New Hampshire Dept. of Fish and Game
Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources
Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources