Fundamental Theorem on the Prairie.
In 1930, R. A.
Fisher, one of the architects of evolutionary genetics
(not to mention statistics—oops! just mentioned it)
famously proposed the “fundamental theorem of natural
selection”: that a population’s increase in evolutionary
fitness equals its additive genetic variance in fitness.
The idea makes sense mathematically, but there are reasons
to expect the biological details to be more complicated.
Furthermore, in 85 years the fundamental theorem has
received no direct experimental assessments in natural
conditions. In collaboration with Professor Ruth Shaw and
postdoctoral fellow Sheema Seth at the University of
Minnesota, I’m "working on it": a large-scale field
experiment at CERA on the annual plant Chamaecrista
fasiculata (“partridge pea”). Students who work with
me on MAPs in 2015 will develop projects on the
evolutionary ecology of C. fasiculata,
projects that complement the experiment and will help
explain its outcomes. Students also will assist in
maintaining the “big” experiment and visit replicate
experimental sites and the other research-team members in
Mechanized agriculture and livestock production have
transformed Iowa's flora to a degree that surpasses any
other state. Today, Iowa's native vegetation persists
only in tiny fragments in which both the quality and
quantity of disturbances and interspecific interactions
differ dramatically from those of the pre-US-settlement
How is it possible to preserve and, at least
on a modest scale, restore the biological diversity of
Iowa's pre-settlement landscape? A number of my
students have used the framework of evolutionary ecology
to address this question.
Publication and student projects
King EG, Eckhart VM, Mohl EC.
2008 Magnitudes and mechanisms of shoot-damage
compensation in annual species of Iowa Linum
(Linaceae). American Midland Naturalist. 159:200-213. pdf
Margida, Greg. 2015.
Life-stage dependent effects of intraspecific density
and interspecific neighbors in Chamaecrista
Sokolsky, Sam. 2015.
Density, isolation, pollination, and reproductive
success in Chamaecrista fasciculata.
Hong, Kevin. 2012. Allee
effects in Echinacea pallida.
Luby, Ian. 2012. Multi-scale controls
of plant distribution
in highly disturbed landscapes: Echinacea
pallidain central Iowa
Native species distribution modeling in highly
disturbed landscapes: Echinacea pallida
in central Iowa
Landscape ecology of the pollinator community of Echinacea pallida
in central Iowa
Kathryn. 2006. Diurnal and landscape-dependent habitat
use by whitetail deer in a fragmented agricultural
Sarah. 2005. Effects of population size, density, and
isolation distance on Liatris aspera
Sarah E. 2003. Detecting the signature of plant
invasions in the Iowa flora by analyzing herbarium
Freya. 2003. Iowa coyotes and the mesopredator-release
Shakir, Zainab. 2001. Predicting
species-introduction success in reconstructed
tallgrass prairie: effects of life history, planting
methods, and management regime.
Mohl, Emily. 2000. Geographic distribution
and character variation in Iowa populations of Linum
rigidumand Linum sulcatum: An analysis
informed by competition theory.
Freedberg, Rebecca, and Johanns, Heidi.
1998. Species richness increases above-ground
productivity in reconstructed tallgrass prairie.