Current Projects

Evolution of life histories in response to rapid climate change

We are using long-term demographic monitoring of rare, long-lived plants in England and the United States to assess how sprouting and flowering behavior in these species is likely to change under realistic predictions of climate change over the next 85 years.


Evolution of mycoheterotrophy

Why have so many plants evolved away from photosynthesis, to parasitism of mycorrhizal fungi? We are working in Japan, France, and Estonia to understand the reasons, using both non-photosynthetic, mycoheterotrophic plants, and typically photosynthetic plants capable of living non-photosynthetically.


Adaptive dynamics of sprouting

Why can so many photosynthetic plants live for years as rootstock with photosynthesizing? We are working with species around the world to address this question, with both micro-evolutionary methods such as adaptive dynamics, and macro-evolutionary methods such as assessing phylogenetic character evolution.


Evolution of mycorrhizal communities and specialization

Plants are typically dependent on mycorrhizal fungi for mineral nutrition. Some plants obligately depend on mycorrhizal fungi, even for their energy. Yet, these specialists are rarely if ever specialized on just one mycorrhizal fungal species. What determines the breadth of the mycorrhizal interaction, and why do plants and fungi interact with the partners that they have? We use plants from around the world to answer this question, but are particularly focused on understanding the lady's slipper orchids (Cypripedioideae).


Past Projects (Still on the Agenda...)

Genetic and environmental drivers of plant demography

Why do plant populations vary in how their demography responds to climatic variation? How does the genetic composition interact with environmental factors to determine population dynamics? We work with herbaceous perennials around the world to answer this, particularly with Plantago lanceolata and Plantago asiatica, as well as several orchid species.


Mark-recapture methodology for dormancy-prone perennials

Herbaceous plants may not move away from where they are rooted, but they can still be difficult to find, especially if they do not need to sprout every year. We have developed numerous methods for estimating demographic parameters, such as survival/mortality and stage transition probabilities, in the face of such difficulties.


The Shefferson lab is committed to novel research on themes in ecology and evolution. These are some themes that we have covered, and continue to cover.

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