Lab Members

Interested in JOINING THE LAB?  (Things to consider)

Jeremie Fant (PI): A bit about me… I have been the Molecular Ecologist at the Chicago Botanic Garden since 2003.20151

 kristopher-bonefont-profile-147-x-210Kris Bonefont (MS Current) Kris Is interested in Fragmentation and conservation of rare species. For his thesis, he is going to assess the extent to which metrics of landscape structure in naturally fragmented sites explain the distribution of species-level plant traits. He hopes to identify those traits which will predict the best chance of survival in a fragmented landscape.



Anita Cisternas Fuentes (Ph.D., Current) Anita is interested in the importance of mating system and pollinators on how they influence the likelihood of inbreeding depression, especially in regards to species conservation. For her dissertation, she will be working with different species of Onagraceae that have different combinations of pollinators/mating system. Using controlled crosses she will be increasing inbreeding  to evaluate the effect that this has on the  fitness of each species

 Tania Jogesh (Postdoc, Current).
Tania is working with Krissa Skogen and myself on the NSF-Dimension grant looking at floral scent-mediated diversification of plants in the evening primrose family. She graduated with a Ph.D. in entomology in Dr. May Berenbaum‘s lab where I worked on the ecology and evolution of wild parsnips and parsnip webworms in New Zealand.

Hilary Noble (Coordinator of Research Labs and Undergraduate Programs). Hilary has taken on two critical roles working with me. She is helping with the coordination of the NSF REU program here at the Chicago Botanic Gardens. In addition, she manages the Herbarium and Genetics Lab, helping with training and coordination of all  volunteers and students.


Drake Mullett (MS, Current- co-advised with Paul CaraDonna) Drake Is interested in parasitic plants and biotic interactions. More specifically his thesis aims to understand what factors influence the relationship between a parasitic plant and the host plant we will subject both plants to varied stress conditions including different nutrient and herbivory conditions and then measure their fitness and reproductive success.

katiewenzellKatherine Wenzell (PhD, Current – co-advised with Krissa Skogen). Katie is interested in population genetics, pollinator-mediated floral evolution, and ecological speciation. Her research centers on how geographic variation in floral traits may relate to differences in local pollinators, which in turn shapes gene flow and genetic structure among populations. She’s currently studying how these factors shape population genetics and phenotypic divergence in the Indian paintbrushes (Castilleja). Her work focuses on Castilleja sessiliflora, which shows dramatic variation in floral color and morphology across its range, and which is the first species in its genus known to be pollinated by hawkmoths.

Matt  Wang (MS, Current). Matt is interested in population/conservation genetics. His specific interests involve genetic diversity and how external factors affect diversity; particularly herbivory and disease. After working for the National Park Service in Utah for 3 field seasons, he developed an interest in rare cacti. His thesis work is focusing on how a newly identified herbivore is affecting diversity in an endangered cactus, Sclerocactus wrightiae. He also intends to build a phylogeny of the Sclerocactus genus to inform land managers of potential risks of herbivory in other Sclerocactus species.

Jordan Wood (MS, Current, – co-advised with Kay Havens)  Jordan’s research is focused on integrating genetic data and analyses into species conservation planning at botanic gardens. He seeks to understand how population genetics can enable collection managers to develop and maintain optimal genetic diversity in conservation collections to ensure the greatest potential for sustained reintroduction of rare or endangered plants into the wild.

Past Members:

Abigail White (MS, 2017 – co-advised with Andrea Kramer) Abbey is currently working on vulnerable plant taxa which are currently rarely included in restoration seed mixes. She is focusing ht on vulnerable species that are currently falling through the cracks due to seed limitations. Her study species is Hill’s Thistle (Cirsium hillii), a native thistle endemic to the Great Lakes region. She aims to assess the genetic diversity within and among populations to determine how isolated these populations are regionally. Ultimately, this landscape genetics study will identify ways to improve reproductive success so it can be included in restoration seed mixes going forward. Publications. White, A, J.B. Fant, K. Havens, M. Skinner, and AT. Kramer (2018) Restoring species diversity: assessing capacity in the US native plant industry. Restoration Ecology Vol. 26, No. 4, pp. 605–611

Chris Woolridge (MS, 2017, – co-advised with Andrea Kramer) Chris is interested in determining appropriate seed sourcing for ecological restoration in light of climate change. Specifically, can assisted gene flow be used to allow restoration populations to adapt to a quickly changing climate? He is conducting a common garden experiment comparing the fitness of five tallgrass prairie species among commercial sources across a latitudinal gradient. This work can help to plan efficient restorations and perhaps create resilient populations

Claire Ellwanger (MS, 2016). Claire is interested in the impacts of restoration and management on species recovery and genetic diversity in fragmented habitats. She plans to assess genetic change over time in the federally threatened orchid, Platanthera leucophaea (The eastern prairie fringed orchid) as well as conduct a range-wide genetic analysis. This work will inform current recovery practices and identify regions for conservation priority.

Rick Overson (Postdoc, 2015-2017)  Rick is working with Krissa Skogen, Norm Wicket and myself on the NSF-Dimension grant looking at floral scent-mediated diversification of plants in the evening primrose family. His doctoral research focused on the evolution of pronounced intraspecific variation in social behavior in seed-harvester ants of the genus Pogonomyrmex, which are native to the southwestern US.

Laura Steger (Research Assistant, 2016-2017). Laura has been working on a number of projects, including with Dan Larkin on the genotyping of Phragmites australis samples for the PhragNet project and working with Claire Ellwanger with her Platanthera project. Publications. 1) Hunt, V.M.+, J.B. Fant, L. Steger, P.E. Hartzog+, E.V. Lonsdorf, S.K. Jacobi and D.J. Larkin (2017) PhragNet: crowdsourcing to investigate ecology and management of invasive Phragmites australis (common reed) in North America. Wetlands Ecol Management 25 (5): 607-618

Adrienne Basey (MS, 2015 – co-advised with Andrea Kramer) . Adrienne is looking for changes in genetic diversity when a wild plant is brought into cultivation.  Her study species is golden paintbrush (Castilleja levisecta), a threatened species native to the prairies of western Oregon and Washington, which is being used in number of restorations.  Publications: 1) Basey A., J.B Fant, A.T. Kramer (2015) Producing native plant materials for restoration: ten rules to collect and maintain genetic diversity. Native Plants Journal 16:37-53.

Eileen Sirkin (Volunteer, 2003-2016). A PhD from University from Chicago, Eileen has been working in the Fant Lab since 2003. She has been working on numerous studies, many of which are now published. Publications: 1) Fant, J.B., A.T. Kramer , E. Sirkin and K. Havens (2013) Genetics of reintroduced populations of the narrowly endemic thistle, Cirsium pitcheri (Asteraceae). Botany 91 (5) 301-308), 2) Maschinski J., E. Sirkin and J.B. Fant (2010) Using Genetic and Morphological Analysis to distinguish endangered taxa from their hybrids with the cultivated exotic pest plant Lantana strigocamara (syn: Lantana camara) Conservation Genetics 11 (5) 1607-1621 & 3) Fant, J.B., R.M.Holmstrom, E. Sirkin, J.R. Etterson, and S. Masi (2008) Genetic structure of threatened native populations and propagules used for restoration, in a clonal species, Ammophila breviligulata (American beachgrass). Restoration Ecology 16 (4) pp. 594-603.

Emily Dangremond (Visiting Postdoc, 2014-2016).  Emily is a visiting postdoctoral research fellow working with Candy Feller at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. She is working in the the genetics lab looking at differences in mangrove populations at the migration front compared to the center of the range.

Evelyn Williams (Postdoc, 2012-2014)  Evelyn worked on the population genetics of the gypsum endemic Lepidospartum burgessii in Texas and New Mexico. Evelyn is now working with Dan Larkin on his phylogenetic restoration projectPublications: 1) Williams E.W., R. Cheung, C. Siegel, M. Howard, J.B. Fant, K. Havens (2016) Narrowly endemic does not mean depauperate: population genetics of the gypsophile Lepidospartum burgessii (Asteraceae).Conservation Genetics 17(5) 1201-1211

John Keller (Volunteer; 2003-2014) A retired professor from Rosalind Franklin University, with a PhD from MIT in Biochemistry (1966), John was a valuable member of the Fant Lab and made important contributions to numerous studies. Publications: 1) Fant, J.B., S. Masi, J.M. Keller, and R. Mann (2007) Investigating the reproductive health of Hill’s thistle’s (Cirsium hillii) populations in the Chicago Region. Chicago Wilderness Journal: Volume 5, Number 1, March 2007 & 2) Fant, J.B., K. Havens, J.M. Keller, A. Radosavljevic+ and E.D. Yates and K. Havens (2014) The influence of contemporary and historic landscape features on the genetic structure of the sand dune endemic, Cirsium pitcheri (Asteraceae). Heredity 112, 519–530

Laney Widener  (MSc 2014, NU) Laney is conducting work on the Castilleja affinis subspecies complex ( ssp. affinis,  ssp. litoralis, and ssp. neglecta) along with closely related coastal species (C. mendocinensis, C.wightii, and C. latifolia) within the northern portion of the California Floristic Province.  This is an ideal system to explore the genetic divergence and taxonomic relationships between subspecies as all three subspecies co-occur within the same geographic area, cover very unique habitats; from serpentine outcrops to coastal bluffs, and their distributions range from endangered to common. Publication:  Widener, L. ++, & J.B. Fant (2018) Genetic differentiation and diversity of two sympatric subspecies of Castilleja affinis; a comparison between the endangered serpentine endemic (spp. neglecta) and its widespread congener (ssp. affinis) Conserv Genet 19 (2) 365-381

Anna Braum (MSc 2014, NU) Anna’s research focused on floral trait polymorphism in Castilleja coccinea (Orobanchaceae), considering both the role of pollinator-mediated selection in driving variation, as well as the importance of abiotic factors in regulating pleiotropic effects of floral color.

Kelly Ksiazek (MS 2011, NU) Kelly’s master’s research aimed to understand the ecological services available on green roofs by looking at a roof’s ability to function as a sustainable habitat. Her research showed that although green roofs do get visited by fewer and less diverse communities of bees, flowering native plant species do not suffer from poor seed production. Publication:  1) Ksiazek, K., J. Fant and K. Skogen. 2014. Native forbs produce high quality seeds on Chicago green roofs. Journal of Living Architecture 2:e2. 2) Ksiazek, K., J. Fant and K. Skogen. 2012. An assessment of pollen limitation on Chicago green roofs. Landscape and Urban Planning 107: 401-408.

Alona Banai (MS 2008, NU) Thesis Research: Alona studyied the putative hybridization between the federally ,threatened prairie legume, Prairie Bush Clover,  Lespedeza  leptostachya Englem. and its co-occurring congener, the common Round Headed Bush Clover, L. capitata Michx.  Publication: Fant, J.B., A. Banai, K. Havens and P. Vitt (2010) Morphological and molecular evidence of hybridization between the federally threatened Lespedeza leptostachya Englem. and its co-occurring congener Lespedeza capitata Michx. Conservation Genetics 11 (6) 2195-2205

Benjamin Staehlin (MA 2009, NU) For his Master’s thesis, Ben was interested in the potential effects of climate change on the restoration of Cirsium pitcheri in Illinois. Possible donor populations were screened to determine their response to predicted climate change scenarios in order to select robust donor options. He compared seedling establishment at 2007, 2030 and 2095 projected conditions) Publication: Staehlin B. & J.B. Fant (2014) Climate change impacts on seedling establishment for a threatened endemic thistle. The American Midland Naturalist 173(1):47-60. 2015 

Rebecca Tonietto (MA 2009, NU) Becky’s master’s worked focused on surveying native bee communities in urban gardens and green roofs. With over 500 bee species in Illinois alone, bees are diverse and important prairie pollinators, and she was interested in determining how well some of these native bees can use urban spaces. In order to better understand how to conserve and potentially restore native bee communities, it is necessary to understand factors that structure native bee community compositionPublication: Tonietto, R., J. Fant, J. Ascher, K. Ellis, and D. Larkin. 2011. A comparison of bee communities of Chicago green roofs, parks and prairies. Landscape and Urban Planning 103:102-108.