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Miami graduate student receives best paper award

12/10/2008

Aaron Kennedy, a doctoral student in botany at Miami University, is co-author of a paper that received the 2008 Richard and Minnie Windler Award. The award is given annually for the best paper in plant systematics published in Castanea, the quarterly publication of the Southern Appalachian Botanical Society.

Kennedy's paper, with co-author Gary Walker, professor of biology at Appalachian State University, appeared in the Dec. 2007 issue of Castanea. Their paper, "The Population Genetic Structure of the Showy Lady's-Slipper Orchid (Cypripedium reginae Walter) in its Glaciated and Unglaciated Ranges," demonstrates that populations of Showy Lady's-Slipper Orchid (C. reginae) from previously glaciated sites harbor higher genetic diversity than populations from unglaciated sites. Most studies have revealed higher levels of genetic diversity in unglaciated ranges.

This geographic pattern of population genetic structure is highly irregular among organisms with disjunct ranges, according to the study authors. "We attribute this pattern in C. reginae to the presence of abundant open wetland habitat near advancing glaciers that served as refugia for diverse northern populations that were well positioned to recolonize open wetland habitat after final recession of Pleistocene glaciers," say Kennedy and Walker.

Kennedy is working with adviser Linda Watson (former chair and professor of botany) on his doctoral research "Evolution of mycorrhizal association in myco-heterotropic Hexalectris Raf. (orchidaceae). He was previously a master's student of Walker's.

Miami botany graduate students have won the Windler Award three years in a row: previously, Matthew Sewall won it in 2007 and Kerry Heafner won it in 2006.

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