Spotlight 2011

Taylor Quedensley
Taylor Quedensley - Plant Biology Graduate Program

Taylor Quedensley

Graduate Student - co-advised by Beryl Simpson and Bob Jansen

Tropical montane cloud forests are one of the planet’s most threatened ecosystems that are rich in biodiversity and high levels of endemism. Stressors to cloud forests include human land use practices and the effects of climate change. Species assemblages that occur in cloud forests can be used in studies to promote the conservation of these ecosystems and their endemic floral components. The Roldana-clade (Asteraceae: Senecioneae) consists of 131 species in 13 genera and is distributed from United States south to Panama. The centers of diversity for the Roldana-clade occur in Mexico and Guatemala, and most of the species grow in montane regions at elevations above 1500 meters. I have had the opportunity to collect in both Guatemala and Mexico during my doctoral program and I am co-advised by Beryl Simpson and Bob Jansen.

The most rewarding component of my doctoral program has been the opportunity to work with Mario Véliz of the University of San Carlos in Guatemala and Jose Luis Villaseñor of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. My Latin American colleagues have been instrumental towards the success of my PhD program.

I also work in Tom Juenger’s laboratory as a field botanist and horticulturist collecting and growing switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) and its relatives. Switchgrass is a widely-distributed grass species native to most of North America and south to Panama. Our research with this abundant native grass species involves genomics, drought-stress physiology, field and greenhouse experiments, climate change, and the production of biofuels. Much of the switchgrass research is occurring at the Brackenridge Field Laboratory at our greenhouse facility and at the experimental gardens. I received my B.S. in Horticulture from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and my M.S. in Biology from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. After my doctoral program at the University of Texas at Austin, I plan to pursue a career at an institution involved with the conservation of tropical montane ecosystems.-Taylor Quedensley
Plant Biology images. (Photo credit: Dr. Z. Jeffrey Chen/University of Texas at Austin; Shutterstock images)