Spatial patterns in fruit color

As a major component of my dissertation, I have been documenting fruit color diversity from around the world.  Fruit color is thought to be the main communication channel between fleshy-fruited plants and their animal dispersers, and the primary way in which plants communicate the ripeness of their fruit.  Fruit color is also thought to be related to the dispersers that consume those fruits, with birds preferring red, black, blue, and white fruits, and mammals preferring green, brown, and yellow fruits.  The exact delineations of these “syndromes” is unclear, however, and we know very little about whether large-scale spatial patterns in fruit color correlate with the diversity of major classes of dispersers (especially birds vs. mammals).

Fruit trait evolution across fleshy-fruited plants

In conjunction with the previous study, I am obtaining or building phylogenies for a number of groups of plants that vary in fruit color and biogeographical occupancy in order to assess trait evolution and biogeographic history of these lineages.

Case study of the origin of novel fruit color in Viburnum

To better understand the mechanisms behind shifts in fruit colors, I am focusing on Viburnum, a lineage with diverse fruit colors, from shiny and blue to deep black, red, orange, and yellow.

Tropical phenology in Madagascar & related projects

With Sarah Federman, we have been studying tropical fruiting phenology in Madagascar and the extent to which Madagascar’s wet forests differ from other comparable tropical systems in the availability of their fruit.

Also with Sarah Federman, I have been co-mentoring undergraduate Alec Downie in his senior thesis.  Alec has been comparing fruit color distributions in Madagascar to other tropical forests.