Andrew L. Hipp, senior research scientist at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, has been named a 2013-14 Fulbright Scholar. This is the first Fulbright awarded to a researcher at the arboretum.
The Fulbright funding will support a stay by Hipp in Antoine Kremer's lab at the French National Institute for Agricultural Research, INRA Bordeaux-Aquitaine, January through May 2014. While there, Hipp will initiate collaboration with EVOLTREE, a consortium of 23 research groups in 13 European countries that investigates "the evolution of trees as drivers of terrestrial biodiversity."
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"This collaboration is a great opportunity to bring together data from two collaborative research groups working largely independently," Hipp said. "We are bringing together two large genetic data sets to address a question that neither of us could address fully on our own."
Hipp's research focuses on how oak biodiversity has evolved in response to climate. Understanding how oaks have adapted to previous climate shifts may help scientists model how oak species will respond to current and future climate change.
The Fulbright-funded project will investigate how the genes that define oak trees hop around among the branches of the oak "tree of life." Scientists know that different oak species exchange genes, and they're now trying to determine whether those exchanges help oaks to evolve rapidly in response to changing environments.
Together, Hipp, Kremer and their colleagues are integrating data on the oak tree of life with genetic data on oaks to address this question.
"This kind of integrative research really demands collaboration," Hipp said. "The Fulbright Award is an exciting opportunity to make strides in understanding oak ecology and evolution in a way that we couldn't do just a few years ago."
The outcomes of the project also will be incorporated into formal and informal education at the arboretum. The Morton Arboretum's education department works closely with schools to provide curriculum-based and environmental programming to more than 800,000 annual visitors, and arboretum researchers every summer train elementary through high school teachers and undergraduate students in the practice of plant biodiversity research.
Hipp has been the plant systematist and herbarium curator with the Morton Arboretum for eight years and recently was promoted to senior research scientist. He enjoys tackling challenging questions in plant taxonomy and the evolution of biodiversity.
He has written or co-authored more than 30 peer-reviewed publications, mostly in international journals. He is the primary investigator on a National Science Foundation-funded project on oak biodiversity in collaboration with four other leading oak researchers at universities in the U.S. and Mexico.