Assistant Professor of Biology
Ph.D., Oregon State University
Research interest: Ancient hybridization events among distantly related plant species
Dr. Ann Willyard, Assistant Professor of Biology, recently presented a paper at the International Botanical Conference in Melbourne, Australia. She described several ancient hybridization events that took place among rather distantly related species. These occasional genetic exchanges may have played a major role in the rapid evolution of this group of flowering plant species in the Hawaiian Islands. Similar patterns of occasional (but important) hybridization events are emerging from collaborative research that Dr. Willyard conducts with Hendrix students on various species of pine. Student researchers in the Willyard lab are studying pine populations that are apparently unique to high-elevation habitats, specialized soil types, or unusual coastal climates. Hendrix students have traveled to California, Oregon, New Mexico, and Washington to observe these pine populations and collect plant samples. By comparing DNA among trees, students have already shed light on how and where hybridization may have influenced the evolution of these pines. Recent student presentations have included posters and talks at national conferences in Providence, RI and St. Louis, MO and at the Arkansas Academy of Science in Monticello, AR.