Using flowering plants to address questions about plant biodiversity, biogeography, and evolution, I am interested in why some families of flowering plants are so species-rich and the factors that have promoted this diversification. Can certain families of plants be used as indicators of biodiversity hotspots and can this information be useful in conservation decisions? I am also studying species in a megadiverse family of plants like Princess Flowers (Melastomataceae) to determine how they are related to one another and where they fit into the tree of life for flowering plants.
For the past 30 years the major emphasis of my research has been the study of New World Acanthaceae (shrimp plants and their relatives). Although known in temperate regions primarily for showy ornamentals, the Acanthaceae are the 11th largest family of flowering plants (with more than 4,000 species) and a prominent element of many tropical regions. Mexico and Central America comprise a major center of diversity for this family.
Along with museum collections preservation, my background and interests are ethnobotanical - primarily the identification, classification, use and conservation of non-timber forest products: aromatic herbs, resins and essential oils, dyes and pigments, crude drugs, spices and fibers.
Documenting the world's vast plant diversity has been one of the most challenging endeavors in the natural sciences. Inspired by the exuberant tropical plant diversity, my research interests started with floristic projects on cloud forests and tropical wet forest relicts in Venezuela. I have studied species diversity and taxonomy of the giant genus Croton (Euphorbiaceae) and participated in collaborative projects on the systematics of the diverse genus Ruellia (Acanthaceae).
I received my M.S. in Ecology and Systematic Biology from San Francisco State University in 2010, studying the genus Mendoncia (a tropical vine) in Africa and Madagascar. At CAS, I focus on curatorial projects and specimen preparation.
Nathalie Nagalingum studies the evolution and diversification of plants, particularly ferns and cycads, and also oversees the Academy’s botany collection. Nagalingum is one of just a handful of researchers worldwide who studies cycads, a palm-like plant that comprises the most endangered group of organisms on Earth. In addition to her research, Nagalingum is passionate about museum science and the opportunity to use her research findings to inform broader conservation projects.
My research interests focus on the taxonomy, systematics and biogeography of the Malagasy flora. I am conducting ongoing research on the St. John’s wort family, Hypericaceae, and the princess flower family, Melastomataceae, and am also investigating the relationships between Malagasy species and closely related groups from mainland Africa and the New World.
My ongoing research interests are on moss floristics and basic bryophyte inventory activities. My field work shifted around 1997 from flowering plants to bryophytes with an emphasis in bryogeography through specimen acquisition to expand the diversity of the collections within the CAS herbarium. Thirteen plant species have been named in my honor including seven flowering plants and six mosses including the moss genus Shevockia endemic to Asia.