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DANIEL J. TOEWS
“The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.”
― Neil deGrasse Tyson
As organisms face an era of unprecedented climate change and habitat destruction, they must either move, adapt, or face local extinction. Understanding how species and their communities will respond to this rapid environmental change is gravely important for human society (e.g. food, economic and national security). For plants in particular, limited dispersal abilities coupled with evolution of locally adapted genotypes, and year-to-year variation in population dynamics make predicting and tracking plant responses to global change challenging.
Thus, my research projects are multifaceted and conservation-oriented, focused on understanding patterns of plant diversity and plant adaptation across complex environments. Specifically, I use a combination of classic experimental biology approaches, traditional survey methodologies, and recent environmental DNA metabarcoding (eDNA) techniques to better understand eco-evolutionary dynamics of plant communities in California’s vernal pool wetlands. This work can be distilled further into three primary components: 1) testing for local adaptation in the endemic vernal pool annual plant Limnanthes douglasii subsp. rosea (Meadowfoam); 2) understanding patterns of plant diversity across these extreme heterogeneous vernal pool landscapes; and 3) improving methods to better detect rare species and track patterns of plant diversity from plant DNA in vernal pool soil samples.
PLANT ECOLOGY & EVOLUTION
ENVIRONMENTAL DNA (eDNA)