(734) 764-5546


2035 Kraus Natural Science Building
830 North University
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1048


Jess A. Peirson

- Postdoctoral Fellow

Academic Background

  • Ph.D., EEB, University of Michigan, 2009
  • M.S., Plant Biology, Ohio University, 2003
  • B.S., Botany, Marshall University, 2000


At the broadest scale, my research addresses a fundamental biological question: How is biodiversity generated and maintained over time? I use a combination of fieldwork, herbarium investigations, and molecular systematic, phylogeographic, and cytogenetic techniques to investigate questions in two integrated research areas.

My first focus is on plant systematics and evolution. Here I combine data from ecology, morphology, and phylogenetics/phylogeography to examine how groups of plants have diversified. My studies have ranged from my master's work at Ohio University revising the taxonomy of the genus Collinsonia (Peirson et al 2006), to my dissertation research on diversification in the genus Solidago here at the University of Michigan. My second major research focus uses fieldwork, specimen-based studies, and phylogeography to examine the Pleistocene and Holocene biogeography of the northern North American flora. I synthesize these data to generate and test specific hypotheses concerning the locations of glacial refugia, patterns of postglacial plant migration, and the establishment and persistence of plant communities in glaciated landscapes. This research focus began with my work on the floristics of remnant southern Ohio peatlands (Peirson and Evans 2008) and has continued with my multidisciplinary approach to examining patterns and drivers of floristic diversity and vascular plant endemism in the glaciated Great Lakes region.

In May 2010 I began a postdoctoral research position in the lab of Prof. Paul Berry. As a postdoctoral researcher involved with the NSF-funded Euphorbia: A Global Inventory of the Spurges PBI project, I am working as part of a large team of scientists from around the globe to provide a thorough picture of the diversity and evolution of this giant genus of plants. My work has focused on the preparation of taxonomic treatments of selected groups of Euphorbia for the upcoming Flora of North America (Volume 12 - Euphorbiaceae) and on phylogenetic investigations of the Esula clade of Euphorbia (ca. 410 species distributed primarily in the northern hemisphere). For the latter, I am working closely with Paul Berry and Ricarda Riina to coordinate lab work among a number of labs around the globe and to fill in gaps in sampling from regions of the world where species diversity is especially poorly known.

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