Habitat Requirements and Evolution of Agrostis Rossiae Vasey, a Grass Endemic to Thermal Soils in Yellowstone National Park

EPA Grant Number: U915807
Title: Habitat Requirements and Evolution of Agrostis Rossiae Vasey, a Grass Endemic to Thermal Soils in Yellowstone National Park
Investigators: Tercek, Michael T.
Institution: Tulane University of Louisiana
EPA Project Officer: Michaud, Jayne
Project Period: August 1, 2000 through August 1, 2003
Project Amount: $66,900
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2000) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration , Fellowship - Ecology and Ecosystems


The goals of the research project are to: (1) use genetic markers to determine the phylogenetic relationship between Agrostis rossiae and closely related congeners, thus determining whether A. scabra and A. rossiae are sister taxa; (2) determine whether A. rossiae is a valid, monophyletic taxon or an ecotype; (3) explain the geographic distribution of A. rossiae in terms of ecological variables and determine the reasons for its endemism; and (4) calculate levels of gene flow between A. rossiae populations and between A. rossiae and co-occurring A. scabra.


Measurements of soil temperature, moisture, and chemical composition will be combined with common garden and greenhouse experiments to determine the ecological factors responsible for the geographic separation of A. rossiae and A. scabra. RAPDs will be used for the phylogeny and gene flow calculations.

Expected Results:

Populations of A. rossiae are potentially threatened by invasive plant species. It is important to know if A. rossiae is a valid taxon, worthy of conservation effort. Documented cases of parallel evolution are rare, and should it be found that A. rossiae has arisen more than once in different thermal communities, this study will be interesting from a theoretical standpoint. Determination of the ecological factors responsible for the restricted distribution of A. rossiae will aid any conservation efforts and/or explain the reasons for its divergence from A. scabra.

Supplemental Keywords:

Agrostis rossiae, Agrostis scabra, Yellowstone National Park, endemic species, Poaceae, Gramineae, RAPDs, gene flow, ecotype, ecotypic differentiation, parallel evolution, sympatric speciation., Scientific Discipline, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Geochemistry, Habitat, Ecology and Ecosystems, Biology, habitat parameters, Agrostis rossiae, invasive plant species, ecological consequences, conservation biology, parallel evolution, genetic markers, Yellowstone National Park

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2001
  • 2002
  • Final