Maribeth Latvis



    My research focuses on Agalinis, a clade of approximately 60 hemiparasitic species in the family Orobanchaceae. With a distribution between North and South America, these species occur in many different habitats and over a large elevational range. The South American species are especially variable in habit and floral morphology. While the North American species have been the focus of recent phylogenetic study (Neel and Cummings 2004, Pettengill and Neel 2008, 2010), the ±30 South and Central American species are poorly understood and their inclusion is critical for understanding evolutionary patterns in this group. I am reconstructing a comprehensive phylogeny for Agalinis, which will provide a framework for understanding migration and diversification patterns between North and South America, as well as character evolution within this group. This research combines fieldwork (focusing on Brazil, the Andes and Caribbean), molecular techniques, computational approaches, and herbarium studies. Other dissertation-related interests include multi-species coalescent methods to untangle species relationships and divergence time estimation following a rapid, recent radiation.


    Although I graduated from the University of Michigan (UM) with a degree in Anthropology-Zoology, I became excited about plant ecology and evolution through amateur botanizing and several field courses at the UM Biological Station. I worked on the NSF-funded Assembling the Angiosperm Tree of Life project between 2005-2009 under Dr. Charles Davis and Drs. Douglas and Pamela Soltis. This project reoriented the way I approach biology by providing me with the context (shared evolutionary history) with which to connect the biological diversity around me, and by introducing me to the molecular tools used to reconstruct phylogenies. This “tree-thinking” approach grounds my graduate research at the University of Florida and various side projects involving using large-scale phylogenies to explore diversification history, community composition, and biodiversity.

Other stuff:

I completed a 2,180 mile thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2007 and intentionally chose (perhaps naïvely) a research project that would facilitate field work in faraway mountains. I’m also into sustainable development, community gardening, and creative ways to merge art and science. Ashtanga Yoga (here) helps me balance all of the above.


“What a profound evolutionary history has gone into the making of Agalinis!” 

- F. W. Pennell, 1928

PhD Candidate and National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow