Silene Project (long term collaboration with Charlie Fenster)
Mountain Lake Biological Station

I am involved in an ongoing collaboration with Dr. Charles Fenster on a long-term field study to address the evolution of and degree of specialization between the animal visitors to three related species of Silene that differ in their floral design and reward system. Silene virginica has red tubular flowers that are primarily hummingbird pollinated. S. virginica’s two closest sister taxa are Silene stellata, which has white bowl flowers that are initially receptive at night and are first visited by noctuid moths and by bumble bees during the day. Silene caroliniana appears to be visited primarily during the day and clearwing hawkmoths and Bombus are some of the common visitors. We are examining the role of pollinators as selective agents utilizing three approaches. First, we are estimating pollinator importance in terms of both male and female function. Second, we are conducting cohort phenotypic selection studies across years for both S. virginica and S. caroliniana. Third, we are conducting a series of single and multi-trait floral phenotypic manipulations for each of the three Silene species. Thus we hope to provide a deeper understanding of the validity of the pollination syndrome concept as well as the selective processes responsible for the origin and maintenance of floral traits in the three divergent, yet closely related species of Silene. This work also addresses the importance of maintaining habitat to allow critical associations between plant species and their pollinators to help preserve species biodiversity.

REU Students and Richard Reynolds (Graduate Student on this project)
Peter Stevens, George Cheely                            Jody Westbrook                                                   Jeremy Ash
and Richard Reynolds

Arrays of artificial flowers for pollinator observations

Woodland Field site Mt. Lake                     Power Cut Field Site Mt. Lake                     Great Falls MD Field Site

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