Welcome to the Kay Lab!

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UC Santa Cruz

We study adaptation and speciation in flowering plants.

Lab location: 257 Coastal Biology Building, Coastal Science Campus; 831.459.1812

Recent Papers

How convergent are independent transitions from bee to hummingbird pollination? And why are they so common? Dena Grossenbacher and I tackle this using Costus in a recent New Phytologist paper.

How do tropical spiral gingers survive the dry season in seasonally dry forest? PhD candidate Julia Harenčár leads a paper showing that one species uses a semi-drought deciduous strategy in which it drops its leaves during the dry season and rapidly regrows them when the rains come.

My work with former postdoc Yann Surget-Groba on the genetic basis of floral isolation between two sympatric hummingbird-pollinated spiral gingers is now online in Molecular Ecology. We identify QTL underlying a shift from bill to forehead pollen placement and show a diffuse genetic basis with many small effect loci and lots of pleiotropy or linkage.

Niche models from distribution and climate data are now often used to understand ecogeographic divergence. Along with former undergrads Kaleb Goff and Cormac Martinez del Rio, we test whether they accurately capture habitat-associated fitness tradeoffs between Clarkia sister species in a new paper in AJB.

Flowering time divergence is an important contributor to plant speciation. Shelley Sianta's dissertation work, just out in ProcB, shows that it reliably evolves early in the speciation process and involves both plastic and genetic changes. Read it here!

Why do some flowers have two kinds of anthers? We tackle this question in Clarkia, and come to a very different conclusion than the currently accepted explanation. Read the ProcB paper here, or the UCSC News write up here.

Screen_Shot_2020-12-21_at_4.59.22_PM.pngOur new Costus phylogeny is now out in Evolution. We contrast speciation patterns between mountainous regions in the Neotropics and the Amazonian lowlands. Congrats to Julia for the awesome cover photo!