Allison Blankenship

Student NameAllison Blankenship
Faculty Mentor NameLucas Majure
CollegeFlorida Museum of Natural History
MajorBiology – Biotechnology
Research InterestsBotany, Biogeography, Genetics.
Academic Awards2018-2019 & 2019-2020 CALS Harry Haman Scholarship recipient, 2020-2021 University Scholars Program
OrganizationsCenter for Undergraduate Research Board of Students, Society for Viral Studies, Cupcakes for a Cure.
Hobbies and InterestsHiking, strength training, podcasts.

Research Project

Furthering the Biogeographical History and Evolutionary Understanding of Castela (Simaroubaceae)?

The goal of this project is to reconstruct phylogenetic relationships within the genus Castela through the use of plastid genomes derived from genome skimming through Illumina sequencing. The phylogenetic tree will then be used to reconstruct the evolution of morphological characters and the historical biogeography of the clade. This needs to be further developed because currently there is a major gap in knowledge of the relationships of species within this group likewise, preliminary phylogenetic results suggest that cryptic species may be present in the group, which represents undescribed biodiversity in the Americas. These Cryptic Species would be further evaluated using morphological characteristics and geographical data to try to better understand how they evolved and/or how they were dispersed, leading to the current distribution of the entire clade across dry zones of the Americas. Likewise, the adaptation to dry zones across the Americas is apparently coupled with transitions in morphological characters for adaptation to those areas. This will be explicitly tested using our phylogeny and morphological characters.