Studying plant diversity & evolution in the sunflower family

Our research interests are focused on understanding the evolution of plant diversity across several biological scales. We apply concepts from ecological and evolutionary genetics to understand the patterns and processes that produce the remarkable plant diversity in our world. We work at the interface of population genetics and phylogenetics in the field, the greenhouse, and the lab to address questions about mechanisms that drive and maintain natural variation.

About us

We study sunflowers and their relatives, the Asteraceae family, as a model for evolutionary studies. The family represents an excellent system for addressing a broad range of questions in evolution including phylogenetics, comparative genomics, and plant conservation. We use genetic and genomic tools to address questions like: What is the role of gene duplication and genome evolution in driving evolutionary novelty? What are the underlying processes that lead to repeatability of the evolution across lineages? What role does genetic variation play in the conservation of species?

We are also especially motivated to create research opportunities and inclusive spaces that cultivate a diverse human community. Providing undergraduate and graduate training for diverse students is a key element of our research program. We also welcome visitors to the lab: for a few months or the whole summer, so if you are interested in applying new techniques to your study system, get in contact with us! See our research and publications for our latest work. We have been working a lot during COVID to find ways to connect the Compositae sunflower family community. A few of these efforts include a monthly seminar series + journal club, and a new peer-reviewed publication. Check them out!

News from the Lab

Fall 2022

Paris joins the lab as a new undergraduate researcher!

Serena joins lab as a new PhD student!

Spring 2022

Erika’s paper makes the cover of Castanea!

Moore, E.R. C.M. Siniscalchi, J.R. Mandel. (2022) Reevaluating genetic diversity and structure of Helianthus verticillatus (Asteraceae) after the discovery of new populations. Castanea. 

Erika wins several awards at the Annual Association of Southeastern Biologists Meeting! Plus we got to see Carol!


See also: 2022 Richard and Minnie Windler Award Recipients; Moore et al. 2022.

We update CBio on lab happenings!

Sam and Keiana join the lab as undergraduate researchers! Welcome!

Masi joins the lab as a research associate! Welcome!

Fall 2021

Jorge joins the lab as a Research Associate! Welcome!

Ram gets a great job and leaves us! 😭 Congrats to him!!

Summer 2021

Erika and Jennifer join the Editorial Board for the journal, CAPITULUM, check out our articles here:

We’re going to Botany and Evolution! See you there!

Spring 2021

Mike successfully defends his Master’s thesis!

The lab will present at this year’s virtual Association of Southeastern Biologists.

Jennifer gives a virtual talk at the California Botanic Garden.

We are learning Python!!! What did the Python say when he came out of his shell? Print(“Hello World!”)

Fall 2020

Erika is a PhD Candidate!! Congrats to her!!

Mike is a Masters Candidate!! Congrats to him!!

Jennifer is a new Associate Editor at Systematic Biology.

The final chapter in our carrot work with Patrick Abbot and the late Dave McCauley accepted at Journal of Heredity: “Mandel, J.R., A.J. Ramsey, J.M. Holley, V.A. Scott, D. Mody, P. Abbot. Disentangling complex inheritance patterns of plant organellar genomes: an example from carrot.”

Bort joins the Jetz lab at Yale as an Associate Research Scientist and working with the Map of Life to understand and quantify the diversity of Compositae (daisies, sunflowers, asters, thistles, etc) at a global scale, as well as to understand the role of extreme environments in driving plant diversification. Congrats!!!! Check out his website for all his latest updates here.

Summer 2020

Jennifer joins the Editorial Board at Journal of Systematics and Evolution.

Letter to the Editor with Deise Gonçalves, Bob Jansen, and Tracey Ruhlman out at Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.

Ram’s Antennaria paper is published in Systematic Botany.

 Antennaria are dioecious perennial herbs distributed mainly in the Holarctic Region, with their major center of diversity in the Rocky Mountains of Western North America. The genus comprises 33 known sexual diploid/tetraploid species and at least five polyploid agamic complexes which mostly reproduce by forming asexual seeds. Our study provide a framework for future evolutionary studies of Antennaria, including speciation, origin(s) of polyploidy, and agamospermy in the genus.





Spring 2020

We are Zoomed out of our minds.

Carol Siniscalchi joins the Folk Lab at Mississippi State University. Check out her website here!

Fall 2019

Dr. Robert (Bort) Edwards joins the Mandel Lab!

Work from Nantucket on pollinator visitation in the presence of non-native species is out by Adam Ramsey and Mike Ballou. Check out their findings in Rhodora.

To address whether the presence of D. carota affects the pollination of native species on Nantucket, we sought to answer three questions: 1) Does the presence of D. carotaincrease pollinator visits and diversity on Sericocarpus asteroides? 2) Does the removal of D. carota restore pollinator visits and diversities to those found in plots with only S. asteroides? and 3) Is there a relationship between the amount of heterospecific pollen and distance to the nearest D. carota population?



Carol Siniscalchi’s paper in Frontiers in Plant Sciences is published. 

In this study, we present the first attempt at studying the phylogeny of Vernonieae using phylogenomics. Even though our sampling includes only around 4% of the diversity of the tribe, we achieved complete resolution of the phylogeny with high support recovering approximately 700 nuclear markers obtained through target capture. We also analyzed the effect of missing data using two different matrices with different number of markers and the difference between concatenated and gene tree analysis.





Summer 2019

Botany in Tucson!

Spring 2019

Jennifer is named Assistant Director for The Center for Biodiversity Research!

Dr. Jennifer R Mandel


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