Postdoctoral Fellow

Chicago Botanic Garden

1000 Lake Cook Road Glencoe, IL 60022




Welcome to my blog.


I use this space to post short updates about my work and the like. If there's anything you'd like to see or ask me about, feel free to leave a comment here. You can also tweet me @angelajmcd.

By Angela, Aug 31 2017 08:53PM

I have had an amazing year so far. Since my last post, I finished up writing most of my dissertation and defended it. Then, I got an amazing job offer and accepted it, and graduated with my PhD in Plant Sciences from Oklahoma State University (I can hardly still believe it happened. Crazy!). Over the summer, I also attended the annual Botany conference in Ft. Worth, Texas and presented my research about Chthamalia and was awarded the Cooley Award (Which is even crazier!) by the American Society of Plant Taxonomists. Almost right after the meeting, I packed all my things up with the help of my Okie friends and Kevin, Mattie, Midas, and I moved from OK to PA (Which really is the craziest, because I was already extremely tired from everything else happening this year). We are all doing well acclimating to our new surroundings and are almost totally adjusted to new surroundings, new jobs, and new people. We have a ton to be thankful for!

Soon, I'll be posting updates about what sorts of research are happening here at Bucknell in the Martine lab, complete with lots of photos.

By Angela, Jan 31 2017 04:22PM

Hi again,

I have inadvertently neglected this blog a bit, but I'm alive and doing well! It's been a crazy couple of months since I last posted. I've been in a flurry of analyzing data and writing my dissertation and applying for jobs. Everything is coming along and I'm excited about my work and looking forward to finding a job and taking on whatever the future holds. I thought I would post a quick list of updates and some news. I have an enormous list of things on my to-do list before I defend in April (and a big pile of coffee at home to match it!), but here are a few things that have been going on since my last post.

In November I presented my findings about a new species Mark and I named last year, Matelea hirtelliflora, at the annual Oklahoma Academy of Sciences technical meeting. It was a fun meeting and a good place to share 'local' work. Matelea hirtelliflora is apparently endemic to NE Texas, so it's not been found in Oklahoma (yet!). The talk was well-received and even won an award, so that really fun and I was happy to spread the "milkeed gospel".

I (finally) submitted a manuscript about Gonolobinae systematics that includes data from four chloroplast and three nuclear regions. It was kind of a beast of a paper for me since it represents a tremendous amount of work but not a ton of data (relatively speaking!). The paper includes lots of topology tests using the estimated gene trees to see what support for critical nodes there is in the data and also makes comments about how this affects taxonomy of the lineage. I also included a species tree estimated for Gonolobinae as well as a supertree estimate of Apocynaceae and a reconstruction of growth form evolution on both the species tree of Gonolobinae as well as the supertree estimate of Apocynaceae.

My friend Wyatt came to visit our lab over the holiday break and I helped him prepare 48 libraries for his dissertation research on Ayenia (Malvaceae). It went well and was a great success! I hear the libraries are pooled and will likely be sequenced any day now.

Finally, I'd like to note here that plastome finishing is a non-trivial task. I thought assembly and analysis of the hundreds of nuclear regions I gathered data for would surely be the most difficult to sort through and assemble. The good news is that the nuclear data isn't so bad to make sense of (thanks, HybPiper!). However, I have been surprised by the plastome data. Reference-guided assembly seems to misassemble or miss completely regions that are divergent while de novo assembly methods can spit out an entire plastome that is all kinds of out of order (thanks, circular molecules with repeats!) and requires a bunch of editing.

Off to finish a few more plastomes!

By Angela, Oct 29 2016 10:45PM

My research has progressed to be mostly data analysis, figure making, and writing. This really is a good thing, but I've developed a serious itch to get outside and collect some plants. It wasn't too possible over the summer, as I was busy with meetings and presentations. Luckly, earlier this fall semester I came into contact with Dr. Dave Lemke at Texas State University in San Marcos, who had found a population of a rare species, Matelea atrostellata (Rintz) in the Christmas Mountains. This area is private land plopped in the middle of Terlingua Ranch, north of Big Bend National Park. So we met up with Dr. Lemke and his field assistant, a giant golden retriever named Buzzard, at the cabins on the Terlingua Ranch Lodge (which is a GREAT place to stay in West TX!) and spent a few days botanizing.

We visited the Christmas Mountains and saw M. atrostellata in a dry wash area, mostly on the north-facing sides. It was really a privilege to see it, as it is one of the few species of Matelea in TX that I had yet to see in person. Afterwards, we drove to the one of the peaks in the Christmas Mountains and hung out there for a while to take in the vast expanse of Chihuahuan desert. It was pretty spectacular.

The following day we visited a few other sites and ended the day by hiking the Window Trail at the National Park. It was pretty hot for October (~85F), but the stream along the last part of the trail was flowing and it was a really amazing hike. Lots of plants were in full flower, including Matelea reticulata, or the pearl milkvine.

It was a good little 3 day break from the grind and really served as a reminder to me of how lucky I've been to meet and get to know a lot of different places and people while I've been at OSU. I have a lot to be thankful for and so much to look forward to.

Back to work. :)


By Angela, Aug 8 2016 05:37PM

I'm finally adding the capacity for a blogging function to my site. I've been hesitant to do so because I'm not sure if I'll post very often. I like the idea of posting semi-regularly to a site where I can share information about my work and keep a little log to look back on, but I am a little hesitant to add to my to-do list and to (someday, inevitably) lag behind on maintaining it. Fears of a stale blog aside, here I go! I'd like my blog to be about my research, my career path/job searching, and maybe a little about other science-y topics.

So far, 2016 has been a really fun and productive year for me. I'm busy bringing the components of my dissertation together and am starting to see a light near the end of my PhD tunnel! More on that later.

A few days ago, I returned from the annual Botany meeting in Savannah, GA. It was so great to catch up with some people I've met over the years. I also attended Evolution in June in Austin, TX. I was pretty nervous to attend and present my work at both meetings, but I am happy to report that the meetings went well! (Note to future self: conferences always turn out to be a blast, so you should always go if you can and try not to be nervous.) The inspiration and knowledge I gathered this summer will definitely keep me on track and help me finish strong, so to speak.

Speaking of finishing strong, the Rio Olympics are in full swing. I watched part of the women's road cycling race yesterday. It looked grueling for the athletes, and I was pretty sad that the American who held the lead for a good portion of the last leg of the race lost in the end. Aside from the race itself, the cyclists rode through some densely vegetated areas that I longed to botanize. I can't wait to botanize in Brazil someday. Isn't that one of every botanists' dreams?

More later.