Graduate Students

Petra Führding-Potschkat Ph.D. student, co-advised with Holger Kreft, University of Göttingen

After studying botany, biochemistry and computer science, Petra concentrated on the creation of technical concepts and methods to bring data into an understandable and usable form and thus to create a deeper understanding at both customers and software developers. As a Senior Project Manager as well as a Data Scientist, she combines methodological skills with professional expertise so that fundamental questions can be answered by predictive analysis (e.g. trend analysis of project budgets and if and how this can be influenced, but also predictions on biodiversity and climate models). As a doctoral student, she is working on a “cookbook” and a data & application architecture that allows the methodical and efficient preparation of data for biodiversity research.

Else Demeulenaere iPh.D. program student

Else Demeulenaere lives on Guam, a small island in the Pacific Ocean. She is an avid advocate for sustainable living and the protection of Guam’s natural resources. Guam is part of the Polynesia-Mircronesia hotspot, harboring around 60 endemic plant species. Cryptic diversity is high on Guam and the neighboring islands. Therefore an understanding of cryptic diversity is becoming increasingly important for the development of management and conservation strategies. For her Ph.D. Else studies the phylogenetic and biogeographic relationships of the genera Serianthes, Psychotria, and Fagraea. In addition to conservation genetics, Else will study the traditional ecological knowledge of endemics on these islands, and will gather the perceptions of the communities in order to develop relevant policies to protect the island endemics in the region.

Margaret Oliver M.S. student, graduated Summer 2017

My research focuses on the phylogeny and historical biogeography of the flowering plant genus Therorhodion (Ericaceae). We have two of the three species of Therorhodion here in Alaska, but some floral descriptions list two species and a subspecies so I am using genetic and morphological data to find how many species there really are and where the genus originated.


Monte Garroutte M.S. student, graduated December 2016Monte_long
My thesis focuses on the floristic assemblage of the Aleutian Islands and other Bering Sea Islands.  I utilized open-access data mining, direct sampling, and a literature review to assemble validated and taxonomically-corrected species lists for each island in the Aleutians and several adjacent areas.  Multiple floral characteristics were also collected for each species, and for each island in the study, multiple environmental, geological, and historical factors were quantified to provide an input dataset for modeling. My modeling approach applied machine-learning algorithms to indicate the interactions between island variables and multiple measures of floristic diversity between islands.  

Jordan Metzgar Ph.D., graduated May 2016

I have long been interested in the systematics and biology of ferns, having researched a variety of fern lineages including Marattiaceae, Osmundaceae, Azolla, tree ferns, Cryptogramma, and Asplenium. I recently completed my dissertation on the diversification of the parsley ferns (Cryptogramma), a small, mostly circumboreal genus of ferns with 10 species. By synthesizing morphological, molecular and ecological data, I have produced a well-supported phylogeny of the genus, characterized polyploid complexes, examined the genetic legacy of the Pleistocene on European Cryptogramma, and reconstructed the biogeographic history of the genus. I am also using next-generation DNA sequencing to reconstruct the pattern and tempo of two Alaskan parsley fern species migrations after the Last Glacial Maximum and predict future range shifts or contractions caused by anthropogenic climate change.

Israel Loera visiting Ph.D. student, graduated December 2015


Israel Loera is a Ph.D. student who is interested in understanding the evolutionary history of arid-adapted plants in North America and detecting links between ecological traits and evolutionary history that have shaped their current genetic, climatic and ecological patterns. His degree was granted from the Instituto de Ecología, A.C. (INECOL) in Xalapa, Veracruz. Israel spent 6 months in my lab.




Stephany Jeffers M.S., graduated summmer 2015 IMGP2126

I studied the systematics and distribution of the Spring Beauty genus (Claytonia) in Alaska.  The genus Claytonia is well recognized around Alaska for its attractive flower. Despite its charismatic appearance,there is much confusion around the species delineation of Claytonia in Alaska.



Zachary Meyers M.S., graduated 2012
My thesis involved a taxonomic revision of Oxytropis section Arctobia as well as the examination of biogeographical diversification in this enigmatic group of arctic legumes. I am passionately interested in biogeography, evolution, and climate change and how these factors contribute and interact to form dynamic species distributions.