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Title: “Selection on plant physiological traits in natural plant populations”

Researcher: Mark Sherrard, Ph.D. Candidate

Supervisor: Dr. Hafiz Maherali, Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph


Plant growth rates often vary across the landscape as do the availability of resources that are critical to plant survival.  Does natural selection act on physical traits in plant populations and if so, what physical traits have the strongest influence on reproductive success?  Is it possible to detect natural selection occurring in plants in areas where there is resource variability (i.e. variation over space)?  Mark is attempting to answer some of these questions with his study of Smooth Brome Grass at rare and at two other locations in Southwestern Ontario.  Mark will accomplish this by looking at the relationship between individual plant traits; such as photosynthesis and seed production, site characteristics; such as soil moisture and mineral content and the productivity of the surrounding plant community.  He will also look at how all these factors vary over time by conducting fieldwork over three growing seasons.  This will be one the first studies to look at natural selection across nutrient gradients in natural plant populations.