Reconstructing the evolutionary history of polyploid and asexual lineages
Polyploidy and asexuality are fascinating evolutionary phenomena, primarily because they involve a departure from the model of sexual diploid lineages diverging via geographic, ecological, or reproductive isolation.  Our group is interested in the evolutionary patterns involved: How often do polyploid/asexual lineages arise?  Are recurrently formed lineages morphologically and ecologically similar?  How long do these lineages persist?  What is the connection between polyploidy and asexuality?
 
Biodiversity assessment in widespread, complex groups
One of our main interests involves accurately defining lineages in species complexes, groups which often feature hybridization, polyploidy, and asexuality.  Establishing biodiversity in these cases requires both informative data and rigorous geographic/taxonomic sampling.  Historically researchers have had to choose between “big data” and “big sampling,” but it is our aim to combine these by obtaining genetic/genomic datasets from large sets of natural history collections (see below). Beck Lab Research
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Using natural history collections as genetic resources
One of the greatest legacies of 1900+ years of natural history research are the ca. 3 billion preserved specimens archived worldwide, including over 300 million herbarium specimens.  Our group views these as key to addressing a broad range of systematic and evolutionary problems, since field-collecting the set of morphologically and geographically diverse specimens needed to rigorously address many questions is not feasible given time and funding restraints.  DNA extracted from a herbarium specimen is tied to a specific morphology, time, and place, and our group has had considerable success obtaining genetic and genomic information from such material.