Faculty Directory

Kathleen M Kay
  • Title
    • Associate Professor
  • Division Physical & Biological Sciences
  • Department
    • Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Department
  • Phone
    831-459-3446
  • Email
  • Website
  • Office Location
    • 258 Coastal Biology Building
  • Mail Stop CBB/EE Biology
  • Mailing Address
    • 130 McAllister Way
    • Santa Cruz CA 95060

Summary of Expertise

Plant Evolutionary Ecology

The objective of my research is an understanding of the processes of plant speciation and adaptation, with primary importance placed on evidence from wild plant systems. I seek to understand the ecological and geographical settings in which speciation occurs, the divergent adaptations and phenotypic changes that contribute to reproductive isolation, and the genetics underlying those adaptations. I am generally interested in how natural selection is involved in speciation, whether indirectly through ecological differentiation, or directly through processes like reinforcement. I am especially interested in plant adaptations to pollinators and to the edaphic environment, and the role those types of adaptations play in plant diversification at the species and population level.

My work combines field and greenhouse observations and experiments with insight from molecular genetics and phylogenetic inference. Although my research questions are applicable to all organisms, I find plants to be a particularly appropriate study system because of the wide variety of habitats that they occupy, their diversity of reproductive characteristics, and their logistical and experimental tractability. My study systems include a diverse radiation of gingers in the tropical forests of Central and South America and native California wildflowers.

Biography, Education and Training

B.S., UC Davis
Ph.D., Michigan State University
National Parks Postdoctoral Fellow, UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkeley