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Native Plant Society Honors MU Graduate Student


Allium canadense, one of four wild onion species native to Missouri

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Erica Wheeler, a doctoral student in the Division of Biological Sciences in the College of Arts and Science at the University of Missouri, received the 2009 Stanton Hudson Memorial Award from the Missouri Native Plant Society.

The $500 Hudson Award is given once a year to a deserving student conducting research on any aspect of botany that involves Missouri flora.

Wheeler's research focuses on the evolution of wild onions (Allium). She has recently constructed a phylogenetic (family) tree of North America's 84 members of wild onion family based on DNA comparisons. This tree will now allow her to ask questions about the evolutionary processes that contributed to the diversification of wild onions in North America. Funds from the Missouri Native Plant Society will be used to investigate the role of hybridization, polyploidy, and asexuality in the evolution of Allium canadense, one of four wild onion species native to Missouri.

Wheeler is a member of J. Chris Pires' lab, an investigator in the Christopher S. Bond Life Sciences Center and a member of MU's Interdisciplinary Plant Group. A native of Victoria, British Columbia, Wheeler has received a number of awards for her research, including the 2008 Lewis and Clark Fund for Exploration and Field Research from the American Philosophical Society.

The Hudson Award honors the late H. Stanton Hudson (1921-2002), a long-time member of the Missouri Native Plant Society whose passion for Missouri flora inspired his family and friends to create a smalls grants program in his memory.