The Florida Museum research building hosts a rotating exhibit highlighting recent student research guided by a Florida Museum mentor. Posters are on display at Dickinson Hall for one semester and then permanently archived on this website.

Contact information for current Museum graduate students is available on the Graduate Student Directory, through links to the University of Florida departments, or via the Florida Museum mentors.

Click any poster to download the PDF.

Spring 2014

Plan of Action: How Google SketchUp Can Help Your Collections Move

Student Author: Austin Bell, PhD candidate, Museum Studies
Florida Museum Research Mentors: William Marquardt

The Florida Ethnographic Collection (FEC) at the Florida Museum of Natural History (FLMNH) is comprised of more than 800 Seminole and Miccosukee artifacts, photographs and documents. The artifacts, some of which date back to the 1800’s, demonstrate extraordinary artistry and craftmanship and are an integral part of Florida’s heritage. For years, these materials were housed in a crowded room with thousands of other ethnographic artifacts from around the world, often indiscriminately or inconsistently organized. In 2011, as plans for a dramatic expansion of the FEC drew near, FLMNH designated more than $26,000 in funds towards the purchase of a mobile storage system with archival quality cabinets and drawers. Thus, the FEC would be united as a “collection” for the first time, moving from the Ethnographic Storage Room to the Special Collections Room. 

Determining Ancient Maya Cuisine and Vessel Function at Cerro Maya, Belize

Student Author: Lisa G. Duffy, PhD candidate, Department of Anthropology

Florida Museum Research Mentors: Kitty Emery

To determine what foods were prepared with ancient Maya pottery and ground stone, different methods of residue analyses can be used to investigate ancient food production tools. Artifacts from the Cerro Maya collection were evaluated for possible residue testing, and four ceramic vessels were selected for preliminary analysis. Samples taken from the interior of the vessels were collected and extracted in preparation for mass spectrometry testing. Results from the first vessel to undergo ultra high performance liquid chromatography-high resolution mass spectrometry (UHPLC-HRMS) testing, a small tripod cup dating to the Postclassic Period, revealed the presence of three chemical biomarkers for cacao, indicating that it once contained chocolate.

A New Look at Subsistence and Habitat Use at the Preclassic Maya Site of Cerros, Belize

Student Authors: Ashley Sharpe, PhD candidate, Department of Anthropology

Florida Museum Research Mentors: Kitty Emery, Susan Milbrath

Located on the mouth of the New River by the Corozal Bay in northern Belize, the ancient site of Cerros provides a unique opportunity to examine how one of the earliest Maya communities made use of its local animal resources. Cerros developed into an important civic-ceremonial center during the Late Preclassic period (400 BCE – 250 CE), when the first Maya states began to form. Its strategic location would have allowed it to take advantage of a wide variety of animal species, both from the sea and nearby river as well as the inland forests and grasslands. A chronological and regional analysis of the faunal remains recovered from the site may allow us to better understand how the site sustained itself over time, and how its acquisition and use of species differed from similar sites elsewhere in northern Belize.

Reconstructing the Ancient Maya site of Cerros with Interactive 3d Graphics

Student Author: Jeffrey R. Vadala, PhD candidate, Department of Anthropology

Florida Museum Research Mentors: Susan Milbrath, Kitty Emery

Conventional archaeological maps and diagrams compress data, reduce accuracy, and poorly represent the world of the ancient inhabitants at any archaeological site. Virtual reconstructions and 3d scanning of artifacts can illuminate various facets of the ancient world and ancient life-ways that otherwise would not be possible using conventional methods of mapping or illustration. 3d reconstructions are also useful teaching tools and provide a lower barrier of entry for novice learners. Using 3-D interactive graphics helps visualize how over a period of 100 years, the landscape at Cerro dramatically changed. Public ritual spaces gained importance and were developed while becoming controlled by the burgeoning elite class. 3d interactive graphics are an exciting, easy-to-use, and successful interactive learning tool.

Fall 2014

Evolution on continental and oceanic islands in the Aegean Archipelago: insights from the Roucelaclade (Campanula, Bellflowers)

Crowl, PhD candidate, Department of Biology

Florida Museum Research Mentors: Nico Cellinese, David Reed, Pamela Soltis

The Roucelacomplex is a group of 12 rare, mostly narrow endemic bellflowerspecies found primarily in the Aegean Archipelago1(Fig. 1). Little is known about plant evolution in these continental island systems2,5. This region has a complex, but well understood, climatic and geologic history with numerous sea-level changes and tectonic events causing connections and disconnections between islands and the mainland through time. Here we utilize molecular dating, diversification, and niche modeling techniques to test hypotheses regarding historical divergence and better understand current distributions of bellflowers in the region. We conclude that diversification of the group on continental islands is the result of tectonic events and sea-level changes causing the break up of an ancient landmass connecting present day Greece and Turkey. Conversely, dispersal and in situdiversification seem to be driving the patterns we observe on the oceanic island of Cyprus. Furthermore, we find evidence that the shift from sub-tropical to a Mediterranean climate may have had a negative impact on these species.

Leptosiphon and flower color: investigating color acquisition in Polemoniaceae using phylogenetics

Student Author: Margarita Hernandez, Undergraduate student; Jacob Landis, PhD Candidate, Department of Biology

Florida Museum Research Mentors: Douglas Soltis, Pamela Soltis

Transitions in flower color are asymmetric over evolutionary time, with some transitions more favorable than others. Several selective pressures and mechanisms involving pollinators often drive these color changes, while other forces such as genetic drift and pleiotropic effects may drive others. In this project, we investigated transitions in flower color in Leptosiphon (Polemoniaceae). Leptosiphon comprises 38 species and has a center of distribution in California. Based on our initial analyses, it appears that flower color (blue/purple, pink, and yellow) has been gained in many independent transitions from a white-flowered ancestor. A well-supported species-level phylogeny will allow for better mapping of floral characteristics. To refine phylogenetic relationships, plant material was obtained from field, herbaria, and greenhouse collections for 197 accessions, representing all 38 species, plus Phlox as an outgroup. We selected 96 samples, including all species and each color morph for a targeted gene capture protocol using MYbaits, a procedure that allows custom design of baits. Probe sequences were created through a reciprocal blast using four transcriptomes (two species of Phlox, Fouqueria macdouglaii, and Ternstroemia gymanthera) and the Arabidopsis genome. One hundred probes were created, with markers with large introns discarded. After gene capture, samples were multiplexed and sequenced with Illumina. Reads were assembled, and phylogenetic analyses were conducted on concatenated and individual gene datasets. The resolved phylogeny will be used to determine the number of transitions in flower color in Leptosiphon and the directions in which these changes have occurred.

High School Students’ Learning and Perceptions of Phylogenetics of Flowering Plants

Student Author: Jacob B. Landis, PhD Candidate, Department of Biology

Florida Museum Research Mentors: Pamela Soltis

Basic phylogenetics and associated “tree thinking” are often minimized or excluded in formal school curricula. Informal settings provide an opportunity to extend the K-12 school curriculum, introducing learners to new ideas, piquing interest in science, and fostering scientific literacy. Similarly, university researchers participating in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) outreach activities, increase awareness of college and career options as well as highlight interdisciplinary fields of science research and augment the science curriculum. To aid in this effort, we designed a six‐hour module in which students utilized 12 flowering plant species to generate morphological and molecular phylogenies using biological techniques and bioinformatics tools. The phylogenetics module was implemented with high school students during week‐long University STEM immersion programs and aimed to increase student understanding of phylogenetics and co‐evolution of plants and pollinators. Student response reflected positive engagement and learning gains as evidenced through content assessments, program evaluation surveys, and program artifacts. We present the results of the first year of implementation and discuss modifications for future use in our immersion programs as well as use in multiple course settings at the high school and undergraduate levels.

Delving into the C-Fern Genome and Euphyllophyte Evolution

Student Authors: D. Blaine Marchant, PhD Candidate, Department of Biology

Florida Museum Research Mentors: Scott K. Robinson, Ornithology (Committee chair, J. U.-M.); David Reed, Mammals

We will use Ceratopteris richardii, or C-Fern, a fast-growing, homosporous fern with a genome size of 11.26 Gb and chromosome count of n = 39, used in K-12 and undergraduate classes around the globe, as the “fern model organism.” By sequencing the genome of C. richardii, this project addresses three aims: A) Explore and characterize the non-coding region of the fern genome; B) Determine the role of polyploidy in shaping the genomic history of ferns; C) Compare the fern genome with available sequenced seed plant genomes to better understand euphyllophyte genomic evolution.