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Carol Baskauf, Ph.D.

Department of Biology

Ph.D., Vanderbilt University, 1993; B.A., Bluffton College, Ohio, 1982

Research interests:
Comparative population genetics and ecophysiology of rare and widespread species

Echinacea tennesseensis I have compared the Tennessee coneflower (Echinacea tennesseensis), a federally endangered cedar glade endemic, with its widespread prairie relative (E. angustifolia) using isozyme electrophoresis and have found the rare species has much lower levels of genetic variability than its congener (Baskauf et al.,1994).
An ecophysiological study revealed that
photosynthetic light-response curves at two different temperatures are similar for both species following preconditioning to a range of light and moisture regimes, indicating that the widespread species does not have a greater ability to acclimate to these
Echinacea tennesseensis
variables (Baskauf and Eickmeier, 1994). 

Thus, although the endemic's photosynthetic capacity is rather low (as estimated by both lab and field work), this does not explain its limited distribution because
photosynthesis rates are similarly low for the prairie species.

More recently, several students have worked with me on a project comparing the population genetics of another endangered cedar glade species, Astragalus bibullatus with its widespread prairie congener, Astragalus crassicarpus. Once again, the rare species has lower levels of genetic variability (Baskauf and Snapp, 1997 and other work in progress).

Astragalus bibullatus fruit
Astragalus bibullatus fruit, photo courtesy of Tennessee Dept. of Environment and Conservation

Also underway is a greenhouse ecophysiological study comparing the performance of these same two Astragalus species, in terms of growth and photosynthesis under various light and moisture regimes. Unexpectedly, the widespread species has performed less well than the rare species under greenhouse conditions. More comparitive work is planned with these species.

The comparison of closely related congeners is very useful in evaluating observations on the population genetics and ecophysiology for rare species. Besides revealing specific factors which may limit the distribution of individual rare species, comparisons of closely related rare and widespread species pairs should aid in seeking generalities concerning the condition of rarity. It should be noted that my interest in endemism and rarity is a reflection of a more general interest in environmental issues

Astragalus bibullatus in flower
Astragalus bibullatus in flower, photo courtesy of Tennessee Dept. of Environment and Conservation

In another recent research project (Baskauf, dePamphilis, and Eickmeier, 1999) I have examined the photosynthetic competence of several holoparasitic and hemiparasitic plants from the family Scrophulariaceae in terms of RUBISCO activity as well as whole plant gas exchange.

Orobanche corymbosa, a holoparasite

Surprisingly, the  holoparasitic Orobanche species maintains an rbcL gene (coding for a RUBISCO subunit), apparently maintained by functional constraints. Despite this "apparently functional" rbcL gene, the Orobanche species shows neither net photosynthetic carbon dioxide uptake in the light nor detectable RUBISCO activity.

Research involving the Echinacea, Astragalus, and Orobanche species has been supported by various grants.


Click on the link to see the abstract of the article.

Baskauf, Carol J. 2001. Examining rarity through comparisons with widespread congeners: a genetic and ecophysiological example from limestone glade endemics. Castanea 66:126-133.

Baskauf, Carol J., and Sharon Snapp. 1998. Population genetics of the cedar glade endemic Astragalus bibullatus (Fabaceae) using isozymes. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 85: 90-96.

Baskauf, Carol J., David E. McCauley, and William G. Eickmeier. 1994. Genetic analysis of a rare and a widespread species of Echinacea (Asteraceae). Evolution 48: 180-188.

Baskauf, Carol J., and William G. Eickmeier. 1994. Comparative ecophysiology of a rare and a widespread species of Echinacea (Asteraceae). American Journal of Botany 81: 958-964.

Abstracts and symposia presentations

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