From Plant Press, Vol. 18, No. 3, July 2015.
In early June, Eduardo Pasini, a Ph.D student at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Brazil, returned home after spending 10 months in the USA, including nine months in the Smithsonian’s Department of Botany and the Laboratory of Analytical Biology, and one month at the University of Memphis. While in Washington, D.C., Pasini studied with Vicki Funk and focused on his doctoral thesis: Understanding the evolutionary processes that led to the diversification and current distribution of the South American genus of Compositae (Asteraceae), Trichocline. This genus has approximately 24 species, distributed mainly in the Andes and Southern Brazil. All of the species are perennial herbs with a monocephalic scape presenting beautiful and conspicuous ray florets, generally yellow, red or white. Several species are endemic and occur in fragile ecosystems, like lowland grasslands or tropical highland grasslands.
Pasini traveled to the Smithsonian with the assistance of a Brazilian scholarship provided by the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Técnico (Capes). He amplified and sequenced nuclear and plastid markers of the species of Trichocline that he had been collecting for almost four years as well as a number of outgroup samples stored in freezers at the US National Herbarium. After the lab work he was able to analyze the data in order to generate a molecular phylogeny of the genus. He also revised the material of Trichocline deposited in the herbarium. Pasini was able to get a one-month extension to stay long enough to travel to the University of Memphis where he studied Next Generation Sequencing techniques with Dr. Jennifer Mandell paid for by a Smithsonian grant awarded to Funk.
Caroline Puente joined the Department of Botany in April 2015 under W. John Kress. She completed her Ph.D. at James Cook University, Cairns, Australia, in collaboration with the Australian Tropical Herbarium, where she worked as an assistant curator. Her doctoral dissertation focused on the systematics and biogeography of the Australian Ericaceae (Epacrids). At the Smithsonian she is managing the Plant DNA Barcode Project, and is involved in several studies that use DNA barcodes to identify plant species, estimate phylogenetic biodiversity, and study the impacts of climate change at the community level.