April 22, 2021
So Many Columbines: Connecting Genetic and Ecological Factors Spurring Speciation in Columbines
Presenter: Dr. Evangeline Ballerini
Virtual Event: 6 p.m. April 22, 2021
- What are the ecological factors promoting this radiation?
- What genetic factors helped facilitate this radiation?
- How do these ecological and genetic factors interact to generate new species?
Dr. Evangeline Ballerini was born and raised in a small town (650 people!) on the border of Yosemite National Park where her mom was a waitress and her dad was a stonemaster. From this little mountain hamlet, she grew up having many outdoor adventures along the banks of the Merced River and amongst the jagged peaks and high elevation meadows of the central Sierra Nevada mountains. Little did she know it while growing up, but these experiences left their mark on her and would end up as a continuous influence.
When she went to college at U.C. Berkeley, she thought she wanted to be a medical doctor – but those plans changed during her first semester when she got a B in Gen Chem and realized that getting A’s in college is hard! Even though she wrote off med school pretty early in the game, she still wanted to study biology and after Intro Bio, she realized that she really loved how the rules of genetics and evolution could explain so much about life on earth, and because she had a hard time killing or harming animals, she gravitated toward plants. She stumbled into doing some paleobotanical field work in Montana one summer where she learned that graduate students and professors are real people and that life as a graduate student looked kind of fun (of course she notes she made these assertions entirely based on their parties and didn’t actually see all the work that they were doing).
Without any concrete career plans in mind, she wound up in graduate school at an uppity private school back east. Because you can take the kid out of California but you can’t take California out of the kid, she moved to New England only to end up studying a California native plant that had grown in her “backyard” as a kid (Aquilegia formosa, or the Crimson Columbine). Following graduate school, after a brief foray into the South to study irises, she finally returned to California to continue work exploring adaptation and speciation in columbines with a post doctoral fellowship at U.C. Santa Barbara. In 2019, she accepted a position as faculty at California State University, Sacramento.