Kenneth Sytsma

Position title: Department Chair, Professor of Botany


Website: Sytsma Lab website

Phone: 608-262-4490

250 Birge Hall

Ph.D. (1983) Washington University
Research Interests
Molecular phylogenetics of vascular plants (Lamiaceae especially Salvia, Ericales, Myrtales, Onagraceae, and Bromeliaceae); Floral, pollinator, and biome diversification of Salvia; Angiosperm Tree of Life; Biogeography and diversification; Adaptive radiations on islands; Floristics and phylogenetic barcode tree of Wisconsin and Great Lakes
Ken Sytsma

Please see my website for more details on lab people, research, publications, and latest CV

My research program encompasses a diversity of approaches and problems – from ordinal to population levels and from Next Generation sequencing to morphometrics. This diversity reflects not only my broad interests but also my view that biosystematic data accumulation and analysis must be done in a multi-disciplinary environment in order to most fully understand evolutionary processes and patterns. Research interests at present include: (1) NGS sequencing across the mega genus Salvia (Lamiaceae) and examining diversification in area, biome, floral architecture, and volatiles; (2) molecular phylogenetics, evolution, and biogeography of temperate and tropical families and orders; (3) the integration of ecology and phylogenetics with collaborative studies involving adaptive radiations on oceanic islands and montane, high elevation “islands”; (4) the DNA barcoding of the Wisconsin flora and its use to understand community assembly and change under changing climate scenarios; (5) the Angiosperm Tree of Life project and new classifications of angiosperms (e.g., APGIII).

  • NSF Systematic Biology Project: Collaborative Research – Phylogenetics, biogeography, and morphological evolution of an adaptive radiation – Salvia (Lamiaceae) [with Dr. Bryan Drew]
  • NSF Dimensions of Biodiversity Project: Roles of functional, phylogenetic, and genetic diversity in structuring and sustaining plant communities in Wisconsin through environmental change – PI’s:  Don Waller, Ken Cameron, Ken Sytsma, and Tom Givnish.
  • Hawaiian Biogeography: Collaborative molecular phylogenetic studies incorporating fossil dating to understand the biogeography and evolution of Hawaiian plants – lobeloids, violets, and nettles.
  • Ericales: Collaborative phylogenetic, biogeographic, and morphological study of the diverse order Ericales, including the origin, evolution, and horizontal gene transfer in the holoparasite Mitrastema.
  • Myrtales: Phylogenetic studies of the order and families, especially Onagraceae, Lythraceae, and Combretaceae at the present.
  • Clarkia: Detailed phylogenetic studies of this largely Californian genus in the evening primrose family, with specific interests in speciation, chromosomal evolution, and the rise of the Californian Florisitc Province.
  • AToL Project: Collaborative NSF Tree of Life project examining phylogenetic relationships among angiosperms with up to 20 gene regions.

I teach Plant Systematics (Botany 400) every fall term and Plant Geography (Botany 422) or Vascular Flora of Wisconsin (Botany 401) every spring term. I teach the graduate level Systematics Seminar (Botany 940) with other systematics and evolution faculty each semester.