EVOLUTION AND DIVERSIFICATION OF ORCHIDS
My work focuses on the micro and macroevolution of orchids. I rely on Sanger and Next Generation Sequencing technologies to generate solid genome assembliesand phylogenomic frameworks of orchids (plus other selected plant lineages) and enable the understanding of the drivers of orchid diversification across biomes. My main research questions are: a) where and when did orchids diversify first? b) are the rate of orchid diversifications in the old tropics comparable with those of the American tropics? c) How do mountain building processes and changes in global temperature have affected orchid diversity? I further compile and produce representations of partial or entire plant crop genomes from archaeological plant remains to understand how plant genomes change in short evolutionary time scales in response to abiotic and biotic variables. A specific question I aim to address is how artificial selection, past interaction with crop wild and close relatives and climate change have affected genome architecture and genetic diversity?
I obtained my BSc. on agricultural engineering at the National University of Colombia (honours). My thesis focused on the orchid inventory of the Yotoco Natural forest Reserve in Northern Andes, Colombia. Thereafter, I moved to Germany to complete my Ph.D. studies. My doctoral dissertation (Summa Cum Laude) focused on the phylogenetic relationships of Darwin's favourite orchids and the evolution of sexual systems in the clade. I joined the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew as an Early Career Research Fellow to carry on my independent research on orchid systematics diversification in the American Tropics. Currently, I am a Research Leader (Sainsbury Orchid Fellow) at the Integrated Monography Team lead by Olwen Grace. Follow the links to learn more about awards and grants, current research projects, collaborators, publications, new taxa, illustrations, pictures and a lot more!
BSc (Hons) Agronomy Engineer - National University of Colombia (2004-2010)
PhD (summa cum laude) Plant Systematics and Evolution - Ludwig-Maximilians Universität (2012-2016)
ECRF - RBG, Kew (2016-2019)
Research Leader - RBG, Kew (2019-present)
MAIN RESEARCH PROJECTS
Using the two species-richest orchid lineages in the American tropics (Cymbidieae and Pleurothallidinae) as models, we aim to shed light on the mode and tempo of evolution of orchids and disentangle the influence of biotic and abiotic drivers of their extreme diversity. We also employ the biogeographical history of these clades to understand how did the flora of major biodiversity hotspots in the Neotropics (e.g. Chocó and Andes) assembled and diversified.
Orchids are known to display vast reproductive and vegetative morphological diversity but the genomic basis of such rich variability remain largely understood. Here we use a solid phylogenomic framework of Dendrobium, a hyperdiverse genus (ca. 2000 species) distributed in Australia and tropical Asia, to understand how gene copy variation is related to the evolution of the amply morphological diversity observed in the genus.
This project aims to provide a solid phylogenomic framework of the Orchidaceae by combining a strongly supported backbone produced from targeted enrichment DNA sequence data plus a species level phylogeny derived from authoritatively curated Sanger sequences obtained from GenBank.
Tracing the impact of artificial selection and climate change in plant genomes: archaegenomics of watermelon and date palms as a study case
Archaeological remains provide a snapshot into the past genetic diversity and genome architecture of plants. NGS technologies enable the retrieval of partial or entire representations of genomes derived from aDNA sequencing. Comparative genomics of ancient and modern genomes allows us to determine how much genomes have changed, particularly in response to agricultural practices and drastic climate changes. We aim at generating entire representations of plant genomes from archaeological remains to then attain genome comparisons and determine how much genetic diversity has been lost and the identity of the genomic regions associated with low genetic diversity. At the moment, we focus on the watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) and date palm (Phoenix dactylifera).