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Jeremie Fant

jfant's picture
Molecular Ecologist, Conservation Scientist
Chicago Botanic Garden

jfant at chicagobotanic dot org

I have been a Molecular Ecologist at the Chicago Botanic Garden since 2003. The focus of my work stems from population genetic theory, but within that area my main interest are pollination, restoration, rare species and hybridization. The ecosystems I have done most of my work in are the Deserts of the western United States and Dry Prairies of the Midwest. 


Projects
Genetic Diversity and Variation in Populations of the Endangered Cactus Sclerocactus wrightiae (2018)

The effects of herbivory on genetic diversity in rare and endemic plants has not been studied in depth. Climate change models predict an increase in new pests and disease due to increased temperatures and CO2; expanding the range of pests. Sclerocactus wrightiae is an endangered cactus endemic the Colorado Plateau (Capitol Reef National Park & surrounding areas). In 2015 an...


Pollinators and Paternity... How effective are pollinators are moving pollen about. (2018)

Pollinator effectiveness: In many plant species, pollinators are the main agents for the dispersal of genetic material within and between populations. Pollinators vary in foraging ranges, the number of flowers they visit in one feeding bout, and the distance they travel between bouts, all factors which will determine the number and diversity of pollen they carry, and therefore genetic material...


Restoration of Aquatic Environments (2018)

Aquatic macrophytes, refers to submerged species that inhabit aquatic habitats. This diverse group of species plays an important role in ecosystem function, which includes among other things, habitat and food for fish and invertebrates. However, despite their importance, they are often forgotten component of wetland restoration. A number of these species in this category are now rare, which...


Using Genetics to help Hawaiian's endangered flora (2018)

Preventing Extinction: Hawaii is the extinction capital of the United States. One group that has some of the highest number of endangered species are the Hawaiian Lobeliods. This unique taxonomic group represents some of the most unusual members of the Campanulaceae family. Considerable effort is being invested in preventing the extinction of many of the critically endangered species in this...


Conservation genetics and ex situ management of Oglethope oak (2017)

The primary objectives of my master's thesis research are to compare the in situ and ex situ diversity of Quercus oglethorpensis (Oglethope oak) using neutral microsatellite markers, and to trial population management software (PMX) for applications in plant conservation, or more specifically, compare the effects of different ex situ...


How can ex situ conservation help to save Hawai'ia's disappearing flora. (2017)

Many members of the Hawaiian flora are classified as exceptional species, where living plant collections are the only currently available ex situ conservation option. For example, Brighamia insignis (Campanulaceae), an endemic Hawaiian succulent species, is functionally extinct in the wild with only one remaining extant individual. It is cultivated ex situ in at least 57 botanical collections...


Inbreeding and decline in plant fitness (2017)

There are several factor that may lead to a population’s extinction, one of these is inbreeding depression. Inbreeding depression is the reduction in fitness within a population as a result of inbreeding. This is a major issue in conservation because the negative effects of inbreeding depression affect all aspects of reproduction.


This project focuses on identifying life-history traits...


Parasites and their effects on communities (2017)

Parasitic plants form connections to neighboring plants that drain their neighbors of their nutrients. This interaction often stunts the growth of the host plants being parasitized. However, this interaction may have positive effects for the parasitized host in the form of changes to its’ pollinator and herbivore interactions. We aim to investigate these indirect positive effects of parasites...


Predictive provenancing: can southern-sourced seeds be used in Midwest restoration efforts? (2017)

Rapid anthropogenic climate change is currently causing range shifts and changes in phenology for many species. Many plant populations have been shown to be adapted to local environmental conditions. Restoration managers have hence primarily sourced their seed from local areas relative to the restoration site. However, the genotypes present in these populations used as seed sources may be ill-...


Staying connected: How floral variation and local pollinators shape gene flow in downy Indian paintbrush (2017)

Different floral traits-- the color, shape, and scent of flowers-- can attract different groups of pollinators to flowers of a particular species. For many flowering plants, pollinators are primarily responsible for moving the genes of plants (via pollen) between different individuals, and among populations. In population genetics, the movement of gene is termed gene flow, which affects many...


Using DNA barcodes to help clarify taxonomic identity (2017)

DNA barcoding is short genetic sequences used to identify a particular species. With the rapid growth and ease of sequencing, DNA barcodes have been recorded for many higher order species. This means that if we can obtain a small piece of tissue from a taxonomically ambiguous organism we can extract, amplify and sequence their DNA to read their barcode. This barcode can then be uploaded to an...


Diversity Lost: Using Herbarium specimens to investigate diversity in now extinct populations of Eastern Fringed Prairie Orchid (Platanthera luecophaea) (2016)

Project Description:


Habitat fragmentation of Midwestern prairies has lead to the loss of large tracks of once contiguous prairies. Orchids species have been particularly impacted by the loss of their habitat, which is the reason they often considered bio-indicators of high quality ecosystems and are of special conservation concern. Platanthera leucophaea (The Eastern Fringed Prairie...


Dry communities of the Midwest - Plant traits that make you successful in a xeric and fragmented habitat (2016)

The gravel hills support a unique plant community more similar to short grass prairies of the West rather than mesic prairies of the surrounding areas. These habitats are often small and isolated habitats which have been naturally fragmented for many years. We are interested in what are the traits that have allowed these species to colonize these areas and persist in these areas. As these...


Floral trait variation in evening primroses (Onagraceae) (2016)

The evening primrose family, Onagraceae, shows spectacular inter- and intra-specific variation in floral morphology, floral scent and mating systems. As part of a large NSF-funded Dimensions of Biodiversity project, we have documented both inter- and intra-specific variation in floral traits in 14 species of Onagraceae and have found striking intraspecific polymorphisms in many taxa. In these...


Growing apart?: Documenting range-wide floral variation to investigate a possible pollinator shift in Castilleja sessiliflora (2016)

The adaptation of plants to different kinds of pollinators is considered a driving force of the floral diversity seen among angiosperms. Shifts between pollinators that are accompanied by changes in floral traits provide a key opportunity to investigate the role of pollinators in driving floral trait evolution. Many studies of pollinator shifts, however, fail to address changes in pollinators...


How bad can inbreeding be? Mating system variation and inbreeding in Oenothera primiveris. (2016)

Mating system is directly related to inbreeding and in some cases will lead to a loss of fitness known as inbreeding depression. The relation between mating system and ID has been study in different organisms, and there is a strong relationship but variation is inevitable. In self-incompatible populations (can't self), they will express greater inbreeding depression than self-compatible, due...


Next-generation of Oenothera xylocarpa (2016)

Oenothera xylocarpa is a rare endemic found in rich pumice soils found in high elevations of the Sierra Nevada.  This species is only located in three isolated regions in California and Nevada. Using Next-generation sequencing techniques we are interested in exploring how isolated are the populations in these regions and how much diversity remains within these populations. This data will be...


Developing genetically appropriate seed mixes of vulnerable plant species for restoration (2015)

Vulnerable plant species, which are often classified as rare or endangered in certain parts of their ranges, are unique in that they are neither common, nor highly threatened with extinction. However, local populations are often small and fragmented, which makes them ideal candidates for restoration. Threatened by climate change, habitat destruction, limited gene flow between fragmented...


Genetic diversity on Sale - what diversity can you get in nursery purchased plant (2015)

The use of a genetically diverse native plants material in restoration and urban gardens is coming increasingly important. However, producing genetically-diverse native plant material can be incredibly challenging. Each step of production, from collecting the raw material to sowing the seed into a restoration site, has the potential to decrease the genetic diversity of the produced material....


Hybridization concerns for restoration of threatened Indian Paintbrush (2015)

There are only 11 known populations of Castilleja levisecta in the wild. Restorations efforts by multiple institutions has seen plants being reintroduced to sites in Oregon, where until recently it was extinct, and sites in Washington and British Columbia, Canada. These restoration efforts are important part of the recovery plan for this species. Although these reintroduction seem promising,...


Inheritance of Scent (2015)

Our studies of Oenothera harringtonii (Arkansas Valley Evening Primrose) have revealed geographic variation of floral scent compounds despite evidence of high gene flow. Scent variation in O. harringtonii is mainly associated with a single compound, linalool; which is sometimes found in large quantities. We observe geographic variation in floral scent and have identified two primary chemotypes...


Pollinator limitation and population genetics of a federally threatened orchid (2015)

Habitat fragmentation of Midwestern prairies has lead to many consequences for plant species, including disruption of plant pollinator interactions. Pollinator limitation in fragmented habitats can lead to reduced seed set, subsequent reduction of population size, and higher likelihood of inbreeding.  Additionally, orchids are of special conservation concern because they can act as bio-...


Scent variation: its role in attracting both pollinators and herbivores in Evening Primroses (2015)

The plant tribe Onagreae (Onagraceae; the evening primrose family) and its associated insects pollinators (Sphingidae hawkmoth) and herbivores (Mompha microlepidoptera and Hawkmoth larvae) is a model systems for studying the role of floral scent in shaping the evolution of plants and their associated organisms across western North America. Floral scent is known to be an important trait in...


Evaluating genetic diversity of living collections of Hawai'ian species, Brighamia insignis (2014)

Brighamia insignis, (olulu or alula in Hawaiian), is a Hawaiian lobeliad endemic to the islands of Kauai and Niihau. The species was listed as federally endangered in 1994 when there were only five populations totaling 45 to 65 individuals total. It is now listed as critically endangered, as there remains only a single wild individual clinging to the slopes of the Na Pali Coast on Kauai....


Genetics for good: helping to conserve a rare plant in the Pacific Northwest (2014)

Plant genetics involve more than GMO crops and gene splicing! Native plants have genes, too, and they could mean the difference between a population's survival and extinction. Our research looks for possible genetic divergence between wild and reintroduced populations of Castilleja levisecta, or golden paintbrush. Golden paintbrush is a small, charismatic, hemiparasitic plant that...


Green Roof Ecology (2014)

Green roofs have the potential to provide habitat and other resources for native plant and animal species in urban environments. Previous research has found that a variety of such species do use green roofs but further investigation is needed to determine how these habitats can be designed to make greater contributions to urban biodiversity conservation. This project will focus on evaluating...


Scent variation: its role in attracting both pollinators and herbivores in Evening Primroses (2014)

The plant tribe Onagreae (Onagraceae; the evening primrose family) and its associated insects pollinators (Sphingidae hawkmoth) and herbivores (Mompha microlepidoptera and Hawkmoth larvae) is a model systems for studying the role of floral scent in shaping the evolution of plants and their associated organisms across western North America. Floral scent is known to be an important trait in...


Development of Molecular Markers for studies in Oenothera genus (2013)

Neutral genetic diversity within plants is often used to track important evolutionary processes including gene flow, species and population divergence, and evolutionary ancestry. Microsatellite primers are a useful way to quantify genetic diversity and track gene flow. In order to measure genetic diversity among these species, we need to first find marker regions...


Genetic Diversity of Wisconsin Populations of Cirsium pitcheri (2013)

Recent studies of genetic diversity in two of the five known populations of Cirsium pitcheri present opposing picture of the state of affairs. One population had low diversity and high inbreeding, while the other had high diversity and low inbreeding. To determine if the low diversity is a state wide problem or restricted to the one populations, genetic diversity will be measured in additional...


Genetic variation and spatial distribution of Castilleja species along the west coast of the United States. (2013)

Castilleja is a taxonomically tricky and morphologically variable plant genus in the western United States. The species in this genus have been known to naturally hybridize and have overlapping ranges yet are considered distinct from one another. We will be comparing the genetic variation within a population of Castilleja species and among populations of Castilleja species on the west coast...


Genetics of Isoetes bulteri (2013)

Isoëtes butleri is an endangered lycopod (fern ally). In Illinois this species  has exhibited recent population declines, and managers are interested what factors influence population size.  This project is studying three ecological factors that may influence population size, PRS soil probes to determine differences in the soil nutrient levels, competition from the community may also influence...


Genetics of Nursery grown Castilleja levisecta, the golden paintbrush (2013)

Golden paintbrush is a small, charismatic, hemiparasitic plant that historically grew in the prairies of western Oregon and Washington. Extirpated in Oregon since the 1940s, current efforts for reintroduction show promise for recovery. Our research looks for possible genetic divergence between wild and reintroduced populations of Castilleja levisecta, or golden paintbrush. We are currently...


Characterization of Floral community within Gravel Hills (2012)

Gravel Hills are a rare fragmented habitat in the Upper midwest, and as a consequence they have a high frequency of species identified as rare or threatened. What makes this interesting is that this is a naturally fragmented habitat and therefore many of the species which are found on these hills have evolved to survive in this type of condition. As native ecosystems become increasingly...


Characterization of Floral diversity and host preferences of Parastic Plant; Castilleja coccinea in the Chicago Region (2012)

Castilleja coccinea is a semi-parasitic plant that produces flowers subtended by brightly colored bracts. In most cases the bracts of this species are red (coccinea= Latin word meaning "deep red") however many populations in the Chicago Region have yellowish bracts. We hope to map the variation of floral shape, color and major pollination throughout the region.As flower color is closely...


Genetics of Isoetes bulteri (2012)

Isoëtes butleri is an endangered lycopod (fern ally). In Illinois this species  has exhibited recent population declines, and managers are interested what factors influence population size.  This project is studying three ecological factors that may influence population size, PRS soil probes to determine differences in the soil nutrient levels, competition from the community may also influence...