Understanding and Conserving California Biodiversity in a Changing Climate

Assistant Professor Patrick O’Grady, Biologist & Geneticist, College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley

The next frontier in biology involves how genotype translates to phenotype, and how both are modified by and respond to local and landscape-scale environmental changes. Species adapt as their interactions with the biotic and abiotic environment shift with changing climate and species communities. Thus, an extended phenotype arises from the extended genotype, comprised of an individual species’ genotype and the genotypes of all organisms (mutualists, parasites, predators, competitors) with which it interacts. We adopt a phylogenetic framework to understand the role this “interactome” has played in shaping biodiversity and will tease apart ecological and historical effects among a number of plant lineages (e.g., Astragalus, Collinsia, Calochortus, Aquilegia) characteristic of California’s diverse habitats, from estuaries to deserts to mountain tops. Each lineage has diversified across California by adapting to different ecologies and native and non-native (anthropogenic) communities. Patrick O’Grady discusses how we understand the historical and ecological components leading to the generation of biological diversity.