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About Justen B. Whittall

My lab is focused on describing macroevolutionary patterns and microevolutionary processes underlying angiosperm diversification. We use modern phylogenetic comparative methods, experimental evolutionary ecology, and quantitative genetics to test evolutionary hypotheses. Some of the guiding questions are:
Is evolution predictable?
Does it proceed in repeated directions across the tree of life?
What is the molecular basis for convergent evolution?
How does pleiotropy constrain the genes involved in adaptation and speciation?
Currently, I am looking for directional trends in flower color evolution, focusing on the most widespread secondary plant pigments, anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are essential for pollinator attraction, yet are constrained by their roles in plant defense, UV protection and other metabolic functions. The six core genes in the linear pathway are conserved across angiosperms allowing for broad comparative studies on the degree of molecular convergence and constraint during plant evolution. I am now using quantitative PCR and full genome microarrays to discern the molecular basis for flower color polymorphisms. When coupled with quantitative field experiments to discern the selective agents, my lab hopes to reveal predictable patterns underlying plant diversification. In answering these questions, I strive to develop creative avenues for undergraduate participation in original research projects.
B.S. 1996 Santa Clara University, Biology, cum laude
M.S. 1999 Oregon State University, Plant Systematics
Ph.D. 2005 University of California Santa Barbara, Plant Evolution
Postdoctoral Fellowship, University of California Davis, Comparative Phylogenetics


Present Associate Professor of Biology, Santa Clara University

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Contact Information

Phone: 408 554-4808
Fax: 408 554-2710
Location: Alumni Science Hall
Room number: Alumni Science 259


Research Works (16)