D. Megan Helfgott
Ph.D, University of Texas at Austin, 2000

Contact Information

Dept. Biological Sciences

DePaul University
2325 North Clifton Avenue
Room 113

Chicago, IL 60614-3207
dhelfgot [~at~] yahoo.com
Ph 773.325.2193
Fax 773.325.7596


I am interested in estimating phylogenetic relationships among plant species and understanding the evolutionary processes that underlie those connections.  I incorporate concepts from plant systematics, biogeography, genetics and molecular evolution to address questions about organismal and character evolution.  Of particular interest to me is investigating the role of hybridization in plant evolution, documenting examples of incipient speciation, and exploring issues associated with phylogenetic reconstruction. 

The focus of my post-doctoral research, conducted in collaboration with Roberta Mason-Gamer, is to estimate the origin and evolution of the North American species within the genus Elymus (Poaceae) using molecular phylogenetic techniques.  As currently circumscribed, Elymus includes all allopolyploid Triticeae species containing the St (Pseudoroegneria) genome. In the North American Elymus species the St genome is combined with H (Hordeum) as an allotetraploid (StStHH).  Our aim is threefold: 1) to determine if the molecular phylogenetic analyses support the existing taxonomic classification based on cytology; 2) to elucidate the origin of the North American Elymus and 3) to estimate the evolutionary relationships among these closely related species.  To this end, I am generating DNA sequences of the phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase (PEPC) gene and exploring the utility of AFLP fragment data.  Hopefully, this study will allow me to better understand and distinguish between some of the mechanisms (i.e., hybridization and lineage sorting) which underlie and can confound estimates of evolutionary relationships among plant lineages.