Dr. Baldwin's research includes vascular-plant systematics, floristics, and conservation biology, with an emphasis on phylogenetic and experimental approaches to testing evolutionary hypotheses.
Californian & Hawaiian Flora
Dr. Baldwin focuses on evolutionary diversification of young plant lineages, mostly in California and the Hawaiian Islands, where major, recent radiations of angiosperms have occurred. He and his students integrate data from diverse sources to address questions concerning evolutionary and biogeographic patterns and processes.
As an example, Dr. Baldwin's research on the California tarweeds and the Hawaiian silversword alliance has tested hypotheses regarding diversification (speciation) processes, ecological radiation, chromosomal and morphological evolution, dispersal events, timing of divergence events, and the importance of hybridization.
Dr. Baldwin and his students and colleagues commonly analyze molecular, morphological, biosystematic (e.g., experimental hybridization), and chromosomal data in their work. Their research also involves collaborative studies in pollination biology, mating-system evolution, and floral development.
The Jepson Herbaria
Dr. Baldwin is the curator of the Jepson Herbarium, a museum and library dedicated to continuing the work of Professor Willis Linn Jepson, California's most eminent early botanist. The Jepson Herbarium's mission is to advance knowledge of diversity, systematics, and conservation of California's native vascular flora.
Students affiliated with IB can pursue further research in California and other flora within the herbarium.
Dr. Baldwin: Q&A
Why a scientist?
I've always been fascinated by the diversity and beauty of organisms, especially in their natural environment, and particularly curious about how and why their patterns of variation and geographic distribution came to be as they are.
Getting answers to such questions seemed extremely difficult when I was an undergraduate in biology, but rapid advances in technology, theory, and methods in the late 70s and 80s made feasible what had seemed impossible earlier. Who could resist that?
What led you to the questions you are now investigating in your research?
Involvement in floristic and vegetation studies of the Mojave Desert as an undergraduate had a big role in initially focusing my research attention on Californian plant diversity.
The rich literature on plant evolutionary studies has been very inspirational and, as in all research, new questions that could not have been anticipated often arise from our studies and take us in new, exciting directions.
Having had excellent mentors and collaborators has been extremely valuable to me, as well, both professionally and personally.
How does your research affect your classroom and/or lab?
Directly. If nothing else, being at a research university should give students a deep appreciation for the excitement of research. Sharing that experience with students in the classroom setting is essential.
In the lab, my students and I all learn from each other; the collective experience of the lab is important to the entire group.
What do you enjoy most about your research?
Discovery is by far the most enjoyable experience in research. Unlocking secrets that always have been hidden from human understanding is truly exciting, as is seeing students and post-docs reach that point in their own work.
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