Dr. Karen Samis is an evolutionary ecologist interested in the evolutionary, ecological and molecular genetic factors associated with local adaptation in plants. She is particularly interested in the role these factors play in determining the extent and limits to species’ geographical distributions, and uses field biology and molecular genetic tools to ask how variation in habitat, plant and population level dynamics affect the limits to species’ geographical distributions.
I study how variation in fitness related genes and functional traits, such as flowering time and stress tolerance, contribute to an individual’s ability to live and reproduce in a given environment. Some of these research areas include:
1) The limits to species’ geographical distributions.
This question is particularly important in Canada, where a large proportion of our plant species’ at-risk reach the northern extent of their distribution in southern Canada.
(2) Geographic patterns in local adaptation.
I’m interested in addressing this question from several perspectives including introduced species and parallel evolution, latitudinal gradients and across geographic ranges (e.g. peripheral versus central, island versus mainland).
(3) Geographical variation in mating systems (in collaboration with Dr. Chris Eckert at Queen’s University).
(4) The impact of hybridization on the distribution and conservation of endangered plants.
I’m interested in assessing how hybridization between rare and common relatives effects the geographic persistence of the rarer species.