Dr. Linda Watson, Professor
Mailing Address: Oklahoma State University
Dept. of Plant Biology, Ecology, and Evolution
301 Physical Sciences, Stillwater, OK 74078-3013, USA
Telephone: +1 (405) 744 6674

My research program is focused on using molecular phylogenetics as a framework to address systematic and evolutionary questions in plants, particularly for the Asteraceae - the Sunflower Family, and specifically in Tribes Anthemideae (Daisies and Chrysanthemums) and Senecioneae (the giant genus Senecio). I am particularly interested in using molecular markers to understand patterns of biogeography and species diversifications. Our research on Tribe Anthemideae has revealed its South African origin with subsequent divergence and migration into western Eurasia and Far East Asia. Its success involves relatively recent radiations of large and widespread genera in the Northern Hemisphere correlated with polyploidy that includes Anthemis and Achillea, and a shift to wind pollination inArtemisia. In Tribe Senecioneae, the molecular evidence supports a sub-Saharan origin for the tribe followed by worldwide migration and diversification. We also are utilizing molecular phylogenies to understand how climatic changes during the Tertiary drove species diversification in Mediterranean type climates on all five continents.

Molecular phylogenies are also effective for understanding evolutionary relationships or associations with other organisms. Graduate student research of Dr. Eric Tepe focused on ant-plant mutualisms in a lineage of Central American Piper species to understand the evolution of obligate, facultative, vs. no ant associations to answer questions about what morphological traits facilitate these relationships and their pattern of occurrence (single vs. multiple origins, and facultative relationships as a transition to obligate ones). Doctoral student, Aaron Kennedy is examining the evolution of mycorrhizal relationships with non-photosynthetic orchids in the genus Hexalectris. It is unclear whether a one-to-one relationship between mycorrhizal fungal species and plant species exists, or whether host shifting by the plants among fungal species occurs, or whether or not these associations account for diversification in the orchid lineage.

My students have conducted research on a number of different plant groups in addition to Piper (pepper) and Hexalectris (crested coralroot), and include Artemisia (sagebrush), Asclepias (milkweeds),Trifolium (clover), Caribbean Rubiaceae (coffee family), Eriocaulaceae (pipeworts), Cochlospermaceae, and nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria. The thread that ties these studies together is the utilization of molecular phylogenetics as independent frameworks with which to address systematic and evolutionary questions.

I am currently recruiting graduate students to my research program in the area of Plant Molecular Systematics, and would happy to host a visit to OSU.

Plant Biology, BOT 1404, Spring 2010.
Prerequisite: BIOL 1114. Morphology and anatomy of plants. Plant functioning: photosynthesis, water relations, translocation hormonal regulation, photoperiodism. Survey of the plant divisions, algae and fungi.

Plant Taxonomy, BOT 3114, offered Spring semester of odd-numbered years. This is a lab based course covering the theory and principles of plant classification, the morphological and molecular basis for taxonomic evidence, and evolutionary patterns of vascular plant families. Lab is focused on learning the major plant families of North America, identification of unknown species, and learning the local spring flora.

Professional Development, BOT 4400/5110, offered every Fall semester. This is a one-credit course for first- year graduate students and seniors. It focuses on pre- and post-graduation success including skills, knowledge, and responsibilities required for success in graduate school and the profession. It also includes information on career opportunities and job search strategies in the plant sciences. Topics include ethics, grantsmanship, and careers.

Recent Publications

Harris, AJ, Papeş, Monica, Gao, Yundong, Watson, Linda. 2014. Estimating paleoenvironments using ecological niche models of nearest living relatives: A case study of Eocene Aesculus L. Journal of Systematics and Evolution 52: 16-34.

Pelser, Pieter, Richard Abbott, Hans Comes, Joseph Milton, Michael Moeller, Mark Loosely, Glynis Cron, Julie Barcelona, Aaron Kennedy, Linda Watson, Ruben Barone, Fabian Hernández, and Joachim Kadereit. 2012. The genetic ghost of an invasion past: Ancient long-distance dispersal, colonization, and extinction revealed by historical hybridization in Senecio. Molecular Ecology 21: 369-387.

Henson, Brian J., Linda Hartmann, Susan R. Barnum, and Linda E. Watson. 2011. Evolution and variation of the nifD and hupL elements in the heterocystous cyanobacteria. International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology 61: 2938-2949.

Sprunt, Susan V., Harald Schneider, Linda E. Watson, Stephen J. Russell, Adriana Navarro-Gomez, and R. James Hickey. 2011. Exploring the molecular phylogeny and biogeography of Pleopeltis polypodioides (Polypodiaceae, Polypodiales) inferred from plastid DNA sequences. Systematic Botany 36: 862-869.

Link-Perez, Melanie, Linda E. Watson, and R. James Hickey. 2011. Toward a redefinition of Adiantopsis Fée (Pteridaceae): Systematics, diversification, and biogeography. Taxon 60: 1255-1268.

Kennedy, Aaron H., Lee Taylor, and Linda E. Watson. 2011. Mycorrhizal specificity in the fully mycoheterotrophic Hexalectris Raf. (Orchidaceae: Epidendroideae). Molecular Ecology 20: 1303-1316.

Pelser, Pieter B., Eric J. Tepe, Aaron H. Kennedy, and Linda E. Watson. 2010. The fate of Robinsonia (Senecioneae; Asteraceae): sunk in Senecio, but still monophyletic? Phytotaxa 4: 31-46.

Pelser, Pieter B., Aaron H. Kennedy, Eric J. Tepe, Jacob B. Shidler, Bertil Nordenstam, Joachim W. Kadereit, and Linda E. Watson. 2010. Patterns and causes of incongruence between plastid and nuclear in the Senecioneae (Asteraceae) phylogenies. American Journal of Botany 97: 876-873.

Kennedy, Aaron, and Linda E. Watson. 2010. Species delimitations and phylogenetic relationships in the myco-heterotrophic genus, HexalectrisRaf. (Orchidaceae: Epidendroideae). Systematic Botany 2: 64-78.