Systematics is . . .

     “the pedestal upon which biology is built”

     “the pinnacle of all scientific inquiry”

     “the scientific study of the diversity of life on Earth”


Our lab embraces the discipline of plant systematics in the broadest sense.  We are interested especially in questions regarding the evolution, classification, naming, and conservation of plant diversity.  Our research is grounded in phylogeny reconstruction (from both morphological and molecular data), but we also incorporate tools from other disciplines including floristics, plant anatomy, morphometrics, chemical ecology, niche modeling, kinematics, population genetics, bioinformatics, and pollination biology, among others.  Our lab has a strong emphasis on the systematics of Orchidaceae (especially North American and Neotropical orchids), but we also conduct research on the systematics of Bromeliaceae, Smilacaceae, Araceae, and other families of monocots and dicots as well.  We value the application of all tools available in the systematist’s toolbox – contemporary & classical - and seek to incorporate in our research a balance of data derived from fieldwork, herbarium study, library & online database investigations, as well as laboratory-based methods.

For more information about our lab contact Professor Ken Cameron



  Current Graduate Students  


Kelsey Huisman

Ph.D. Candidate (2016-present)

Email: khuisman at wisc dot edu

Background & Research Interests: Kelsey is a Michigander with a BS degree from Northern Michigan Univ in the Upper Peninsula.  She escaped the cold winters by conducting fieldwork in the high Andes of Ecuador (she is fluent in Spanish), and fell in love with the diversity of pleurothallid orchids native to that part of the world.  

Dissertation: “Gene flow, population genetics, and evolution of Ecuadorian Teagueia (Orchidaceae) species ”. Currently in development. 

W. Grant Morton

Ph.D. Candidate (2016-present)

Email: wmorton at wisc dot edu

Background & Research Interests: Grant is especially interested in the germination of North American orchid seeds, and the role of fungi in orchid seed germination.  He hopes that his research will allow for the propagation and reintroduction of endangered orchids back into the wild.  He was a student and lecturer at Illinois College for several years, and earned his MS degree at Southern Illinois University. 

Dissertation: “Conservation of North America's native Vanilla species: Population genetics, in vitro seed germination, red listing, and demographics”. Currently in development.

Shenyi (Shane) Wang

Ph.D. Candidate (2015-present)

Email: swang495 at wisc dot edu

Background & Research Interests: Shenyi graduated from Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, and joined the Cameron Lab in 2015.  His research interests are plant taxonomy, conservation genetics, and the use of molecular data to identify potential areas that may have served as northern glavial refugia for plants during the last glacial maximum.

Dissertation: “Could Wisconsin’s Driftless Area have served as a Northern Glacial Refugium?: Evidence from Phylogeography, Population Genetics, & Community Phylogenetics”. Currently in development.


James McDaniel

Ph.D. Candidate (2012-present)

Email: jlmcdaniel at wisc dot edu

Background & Research Interests: James graduated from Lynchburg College (Virginia) and came to Madison with an interest in floral fragrance, pollination biology, and orchid systematics.  He has made several trips to Ecuador where he is studying the kinematics of rapid floral snap-traps in the Andean orchid genus Porroglossum.  James’ research is grounded in a molecular phylogenetic reconstruction of the genus using NextGen DNA sequence data (specifically GBS). He is supported at UW by an Advanced Opportunity Fellowship and a NSF Predoctoral Graduate Research Fellowship.

Dissertation: “Molecular Systematics of Porroglossum Schltr. (Orchidaceae): Phylogenetics, Floral Snap-Trap Kinematics, and Fragrance”.  Currently in progress.


Alfonso Doucette

Ph.D. Candidate (2012-present)

Email: adoucette at wisc dot edu

Research Interests: Alfonso graduated from Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.  He is primarily interested in nomenclature, systematics, and pollination biology of the Neotropical orchid subtribe Pleurothallidinae. His work relies on molecular and ecological data to test taxonomic systems and character significance used in taxon circumscription with an aim of exploring how species as taxa vs. species as functional units structure information in real groups. He is supported at UW by a NSF Predoctoral Graduate Research Fellowship.



Dissertation: “Explosive radiation in the Pleurothallidinae(Orchidaceae): Why are some clades more species rich than others?”  Currently in progress.


Giovanny Giraldo

Ph.D. Candidate (2011-present)

Email: giraldocaro at wisc dot edu

Background & Research Interests: Giovanny is a Colombian orchidologist from Bogota.  He has conducted extensive fieldwork throughout the Neotropics, and described several new species of orchid.  His research is focused on taxonomy and systematics of the vanilloid genus Epistephium, which is a close relative to Vanilla - the only orchid of significant agricultural value.  Giovanny’s research is supported by a NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant.

Dissertation: “Systematics and Biogeography of the tribe Vanilleae (Orchidaceae), and a monograph of the genus Epistephium”.  Currently in progress.

Graduate Student - Alumni  

Matthew Pace

Ph.D. Candidate (2011-2015)

Background & Research Interests: A graduate of Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, Matthew is interested in phylogenetic systematics, population genetics, and biogeography of Spiranthes, a genus of primarily North American orchids. “I am addressing problematic species complexes, and investigating how this genus spread across the globe. Additionally, I'm examining the relationship between distribution, pollinators, and genetic diversity. This has important consequences for conservation since many Spiranthes are undergoing population declines.” 

Dissertation: “Evolution, species boundaries, and biogeography of Spiranthes (Orchidaceae): uncoiling Ames’s “most perplexing orchid genus in our flora”.  Defended May 2015.
Current Status: Dr. Pace is now Assistant Curator of The New York Botanical Garden Herbarium (NY) in the Bronx.


Alejandro Zuluaga

Ph.D. Candidate (2010-2015)

Background & Research Interests: A native of Colombia, Alejandro’s research interests are systematics, biogeography and evolution of tropical aroids, in particular the subfamily Monsteroideae and the Neotropical genus Monstera. His research integrates a monographic revision and an evolutionary analysis of this Neotropical genus.  Alejandro’s education in the USA was funded in part through a Fullbright fellowship administered by LASPAU. 

Dissertation: “Evolution of the family Araceae in the tropics:  Patterns of diversification rates, biogeography and morphological evolution at different taxonomical and geographical scales” Defended May 2015
Current Status: Dr. Zuluaga is now on the faculty at Universidad del Valle in Cali, Colombia


Deniz Aygoren

M.S. Candidate (2009-2011)

Background & Research Interests: Deniz has a broad background in Botany, and is supported by the government of Turkey, her home country, to attend graduate school in the USA.  She is interested in using gene sequence data for phylogenetic systematics and applications such as DNA barcoding, and was one of the first members of our lab to sequence low copy nuclear genes to address phylogeny in orchids.

MS Thesis: “Phylogenetic Relationships, Molecular Dating and DNA Barcoding of Spiranthes (Orchidaceae)”.  Defended
May 2011.
Current Status: Deniz is currently completing her Ph.D. at Redding University in the UK.


Brian Sidoti

Ph.D. Candidate (2008-2015)

Background & Research Interests: Having earned a BS from Colby College and a MS from Florida International University, Brian’s research integrates a suite of novel approaches to study the pattern and process of evolution of the epiphytic Tillandsia fasciculata (Bromeliaceae) complex in order to: 1) determine phylogenetic relationships of the T. fasciculata complex; 2) examine genetic variation within this species complex throughout the Caribbean Basin; and 3) predict the occurrence of T. fasciculata in geographic space based on distribution data.  Brian’s research is supported by a NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant.

Dissertation: “Systematics of the Tillandsia fasciculata Complex (Bromeliaceae)”.  Defended July 2015.
Current Status: Dr. Sidoti is currently on the faculty at the State College of Florida in Manatee/Sarasota, FL.



Rafael Arévalo

Ph.D. Candidate (2008-2014)

Background & Research Interests: Rafael earned a BS degree from Universidad do los Andes in Colombia.  He is interested in the evolutionary biology, systematics and taxonomy of Neotropical Orchids. “My dissertation research focuses on the orchid genus Mormolyca. My research couples molecular phylogenetic data with floral morphology and volatiles to assess the role of evolving flower form and function in the process of orchid speciation.” Rafael’s research is supported by a NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant.

Dissertation: “Molecular systematics, floral micro-morphology, rewards, and fragrance variation in the Neotropical orchid genus Mormolyca (Orchidaceae)”.  Defended May 2013.
Current Status: Dr. Arevalo is currently employed as a research scientist in the Wood Anatomy Lab at the USDA’s Forest Products Research Laboratory in Madison, WI.



  Postdocs & Visiting Scholars 

Dr. Ming Li

Visiting Research Scholar (2012-2013)
Background & Research Interests: Ming is an instructor of silviculture at Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University, Fujian Province, PR China. He graduated from Northwest Agriculture & Forestry University in 2014 with a PhD studying genetic diversity and population genetic structure of apricot in north China. His current research focuses on species differentiation of Chinese fir (Cunninghamia lanceolata) in Mainland and Taiwan based on the tungshan land bridge and climate change during the last glacial maximum.

Dr. Ricardo Kriebel

Postoctoral Research Associate (2013-2016)
Background & Research Interests: Ricardo is a native of Costa Rica, and earned his Ph.D. at The New York Botanical Garden researching the systematics of Miconia and other genera of Melastomataceae.  He is especially interested in the application of morphometrics in studying floral evolution.  He is supported on a NSF Dimensions of Biodiversity grant to study community phylogenetics of the Wisconsin flora.

Dr. Shude Shi

Visiting Research Scholar (2012-2013)
Background & Research Interests: Shude is an Associate Professor at Inner Mongolia Agricultural University in Huhehot, Inner Mongolia, China.  He completed his PhD at Zhejiang University under our good friend and collaborator, Dr. CX Fu.  His research interests are on the systematics of Asian Cistaceae, and especially on the Asian monocot genus Lycoris (Amaryllidaceae).

Dr. Pan Li

Visiting Graduate Research Scholar (2010-2011)
Background & Research Interests: Dr. Li spent one year collecting specimens of North American Smilax, and applying gene sequence and AFLP data to understand relationships among disjunt species within Smilax section Nemexia.  He is currently a Lecturer at his alma mater Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China.



 Undergraduate Students 


Too many to name!  We have been incredibly fortunate to include dozens of outstanding UW-Madison undergraduate students from Botany, Biology, Microbiology, and many other majors on campus.  Thank you for being part of the Cameron Lab.  We sincerely hope you stay in touch.