From Plant Press, Vol. 18, No. 1, January 2015.
Craig Costion completed his undergraduate training at the University of Vermont with a major in Ethnobotany in 2003. He went straight from UVM into the Peace Corps in Palau (Micronesia) where he served one year, then was hired as the manager of the Natural History Section of Palau's National Museum. There he established a national herbarium, and led a floristic inventory of the island. He then went on to complete a M.Sc. in Plant Taxonomy at the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh with distinction. A full scholarship offer then took him to Australia for his doctoral training jointly between the University of Adelaide and James Cook University in Cairns where he stayed on for a two-year post doc. There Costion built a DNA barcode based super-tree of the northeast Queensland rain forest bioregion, continued research on the Flora of Micronesia, and did climate modeling of mountain-top endemic plants. He was then hired as a private consultant to manage the establishment of a Smithsonian Center for Tropical Forest Science (CTFS) plot in Palau. After living abroad and working on tropical botany for 12 years, Costion has now just recently joined the Smithsonian team as a post-doctoral fellow under W. John Kress. His work will be focused on DNA barcoding of four CTFS plots from Hawaii, Palau, and Australia.
Erin Sigel joined the Botany Department as a Peter Buck Postdoctoral Fellow in September 2014, under the supervision of Eric Schuettpelz and Ashley N. Egan. Sigel is a recent graduate of Duke University, where her doctoral dissertation research focused on gene expression in polyploid ferns and the systematics of the reticulate Polypodium vulgare complex. At the Smithsonian she is combining her knowledge of systematics, high throughput sequencing technologies, and bioinformatics to study the phenotypic, genetic, and genomic consequences of polyploidy and hybridization in ferns. Specifically, she has adopted Polypodium hesperium as a focal organism for investigating how allopolyploid plants (i.e., those with multiple sets of chromosomes resulting from interspecific hybridization) preferentially express and retain duplicate gene copies inherited from their parent species.
Mohammad Vatanparast joined the Botany Department as a Postdoctoral Fellow in November 2014 working with Ashley N. Egan. Vatanparast completed his Ph.D. at Chiba University, Japan, under Tadashi Kajita, studying legume systematics and population genetics of Canavalia and other sea-dispersed plant species. At the Smithsonian he will be working on resolving the relationships within the Phaseoloid and Milletioid legume clades to produce a strong supported phylogenetic hypothesis of these taxa based on hundreds of genes from both the chloroplast and nuclear genomes using a targeted-enrichment approach and next-generation sequencing methods.