Faculty by Research Area

Systematics

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Maybe Berenbaum,  May

maybe@illinois.edu
216A Morrill Hall / 318B Morrill Hall
217-333-2910 / 217-333-7784

Professor & Head, Swanlund Chair
Entomology, PEEC

Photo Cameron,  Sydney

sacamero@illinois.edu
215B Morrill Hall
217-333-2340

Professor
Entomology, PEEC

C cheng Cheng,  C.-H. Christina

c-cheng@illinois.edu
17E Burrill Hall
217-333-2832

Professor
Animal Biology, PEEC

Dietrich Dietrich,  Christopher

chdietri@illinois.edu
282 Natural Resources Building
217-244-7408

Affiliate, Associate Center Director, Systematic Entomologist
Entomology, PEEC, INHS

Downie Downie,  Stephen

sdownie@illinois.edu
239 Morrill Hall
(217) 333-1275

Professor, SIB Associate Director of Academic Affairs
Plant Biology, PEEC

Despite multidisciplinary studies using non-molecular characters, historical relationships among and within many families of flowering plants remain unclear. Reconstruction of phylogenies from molecular data is now routine in systematics and continues to provide valuable insight into evolutionary processes and relationships. We are using the record of molecular change contained within the chloroplast and nuclear genomes to trace evolutionary histories and elucidate patterns of phenotypic character evolution in the Apiaceae (or Umbelliferae), a plant family of much ecological, economical, and pharmaceutical interest. Current research is focused on the perennial, endemic umbellifers of western North America, such as <i>Cymopterus</i> and its allies, with the goals of clarifying generic- and species-level boundaries and revising the classification of the group. Unique structural rearrangements of the chloroplast genome are useful as systematic characters, in part because their rarity suggests phylogenetic stability. Of additional research interest is the detection, characterization, and phylogenetic circumscription of these structural mutations.
Kpjohnso Johnson,  Kevin

kpjohnso@illinois.edu
284 Natural Resources Building, 607 E. Peabody Dr., Champaign, IL 61820
217-244-9267

Affiliate, Principal Ornithologist
Animal Biology, Entomology, INHS, PEEC

Malhi Malhi,  Ripan

malhi@illinois.edu
209F Davenport Hall
217-265-0721

Professor
Animal Biology, PEEC

Amiller7 Miller,  Andrew

amiller7@illinois.edu
2003 Robert Evers Lab

Affiliate
Plant Biology, PEEC

With an estimated 1.5 million species, fungi constitute the most diverse group of eukaryotic organisms on earth, second only to insects in the number of species thought to exist. However, only 80,000 species or 5% of fungi have been described so far indicating a great deal of fungal biodiversity remains to be discovered. Ascomycetes constitute the largest known group of fungi with over 32,000 species, of which pyrenomycetes account for almost 25%. Pyrenomycetes are an economically and ecologically important group of fungi in that they contain the “fruit flies” of the fungal world (i.e. Neurospora crassa, Podospora anserina, Sordaria fimicola) as well as significant destructive pathogens including the causative agents of chestnut blight (Cryphonectria parasitica), dutch elm disease (Ophiostoma ulmi), and the recently discovered beech bark disease (Nectria coccinea). Phylogenetic relationships of ascomycetes, especially those in the Class Sordariomycetes, are poorly known. My research incorporates modern molecular techniques with traditional taxonomic methods to test morphological-based classifications from the ordinal level to the species level. Well-supported phylogenies provide clues as to which morphological characters may be informative for predicting evolutionary relationships and which are misleading. In most cases, molecular phylogenies do not reflect current classifications leading to new insights regarding character evolution in pyrenomycetes. We are currently conducting an inventory of the pyrenomycetes of Great Smoky Mountains National Park to determine their diversity, abundance, distribution, seasonality, and host specificity throughout the Park. This data will greatly add to our understanding of the biology and natural history of these organisms. Surveys currently being conducted in tropical regions will allow us to better understand biogeographical patterns of pyrenomycetes throughout the New World.
Caphilli Phillips,  Christopher

caphilli@illinois.edu
185 NRB
217-244-7077

Adjunct Assistant Professor/Affiliate
Animal Biology, PEEC

Seigler Seigler,  David

daveseig@illinois.edu
217-333-7577

Professor Emeritus & Curator of Herbarium
Plant Biology, PEEC

Secondary metabolites of many structural types form the basis of many biological interactions in which plants are involved. Study of secondary metabolism, the interactions in which secondary metabolites serve as mediators or messages, and the evolutionary relationships of organisms in which these interactions occur is the central focus of research in my laboratory. We are presently developing and evaluating the activity of mixtures of soy oil products and plant secondary metabolites as insecticides for mosquitoes. This work is in collaboration with Dr. Robert Novak, Center for Economic Entomology, Illinois State Natural History Survey, and Dr. Robert Metcalf, Professor Emeritus, Department of Entomology, University of Illinois. We have presently developed mosquitocidal mixtures and have identified fractions from several plants that also possess mosquitocidal activity. By combining the two, we hope to reduce the amount of oil mixtures needed to control mosquitoes effectively. In collaborative work with Dr. Mary Ann Lila Smith of NRES, we are extracting, fractionating and purifying bioactive compounds from several berries that have powerful antioxidant activity. Extracts of these fruits give positive results in antioxidant, cancer preventive and cardioprotective bioassays. We are presently attempting to identify and characterize the compounds responsible. As a part of this work, we are modifying and improving chromatographic techniques needed to fractionate the mixtures. We have examined systematic and phylogenetic problems in the genus Acacia for several years and have published revisions of several portions of this large genus (about 250 neotropical species). Initial phases of this work, involving analysis using morphological features of two series of the genus, Acacia series Gummiferae and Vulgares are in progress. However, use of DNA sequencing of both chloroplast and nuclear encoded characters is essential to establish phylogenies of these taxa solidly. We are presently isolating DNA and carrying out amplification of the ITS regions. In the coming year, I plan to obtain sequences of several key taxa of each group within the genus and to apply for NSF funding for this project. Past research has focused on compounds capable of liberating HCN upon hydrolysis - both cyanogenic glycosides and lipids. Although studies have involved a number of plant groups, recent investigations have centered on the genus Acacia (Fabaceae) of the southwestern U.S. and Mexico, and the Passifloraceae and related families, providing a base for resolution of systematic and evolutionary problems as well as biological interactions within the groups. In related work, we are exploring cyanogenesis in the genus Tiquilia (Boraginaceae) of the southwestern U.S. and Mexico. Some species contain the cyanogenic glucoside dhurrin, whereas, in others, a non-cyanogenic nitrile glucoside, menisdaurin, is found. The two glucosides have been considered to arise from distinct pathways, but our results suggest strongly that their biosynthesis is linked. Menisdaurin itself may be formed as an artifact from another cyanogenic compound that can only be isolated from the plant under conditions that avoid heating. This heat-labile cyanogen has not been characterized.
Warnow Warnow,  Tandy

warnow@illinois.edu
3235 Seibel Center for Computer Sciences
217-300-3087

Affiliate, Professor
Entomology, Animal Biology, PEEC

Rwhitakr Whitaker,  Rachel

rwhitakr@illinois.edu
C222 Chemical and Life Sciences Laboratory
217-244-8420

Associate Professor
Molecular and Cellular Biology, PEEC

Cww Whitfield,  Charles

cww@illinois.edu
422 Morrill Hall
217-244-2889

Associate Professor
Entomology, PEEC

Jwhitfie Whitfield,  James

jwhitfie@illinois.edu
215 Morrill Hall
217-333-2567

Professor
Entomology, PEEC