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Molecular Systematics of Plants, Floristics of the Southeast, and Exotic Invasive Species
Joey Shaw, Ph.D.

Dr. Shaw with class

Research being conducted in my laboratory lies in 3 areas of botanical science. 

Molecular Systematic of Plants—Plant molecular systematics is a branch of biology that focuses on using tools from genetics like PCR and DNA sequencing to address questions of evolution and biogeography in plants.  I am currently working of the genus Prunus, the genus that contains plums, peaches, cherries, apricots, and almonds.  This focus has led me to become interested the different rates of evolution among various noncoding fragments of the plant genome.  Because different regions of the genome evolve (accumulate genetic mutations) at different rates some regions may be better tools than others for studies among either closely or distantly related species.

Floristics of the southeastern United States—Floristic study of the plants of the southeast, specifically in southeast TN, northeast AL, and northwest GA is a primary research interest in my lab.  Cataloging plant species in various areas (e.g., federal and state natural areas or areas that have been heavily disturbed in the past) provides base-line data for many other types of inquiry.  In addition to recording the species in a given area at a given time this type of study also will add to a growing body of knowledge on plant distributions in Tennessee and the rest of the southeast.

Exotic Invasive Plant Studies—Many plant species have been introduced to North America and several have become naturalized among the native flora; for example Japanese honeysuckle and kudzu.  In addition to these two several other lesser-known exotic species are also spreading throughout the southeast.  It is important to record the presence, absence, and ultimately spread of these exotic species for several reasons.  The obvious reason being that the presence of an exotic invasive species along with information on relative abundance and geospatial information (GPS/GIS) can directly be used in formulating an eradication plan.

I am seeking both undergraduate and graduate students interested in: floristics, invasive species studies, taxonomic studies, or molecular phylogenetic and/or phylogeographic studies.   Interested students should contact me at


Sample Grants/Projects

2005. National Science Foundation support to study the phylogeny and biogeography of the plum/cherry/peach/almond/apricot genus.

2004. National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant to study the evolutionary relationships among the North American plums.

2004. Yates Dissertation Fellowship Award to study the evolutionary relationships among the North American plums.


Sample Publications

* denotes student author

Collins, E. and J. Shaw. 2009. Noteworthy collection of Ranunculus ficaria in Hamilton County, Tennessee. Castanea 74:434.

Huskins, S. and J. Shaw. (In press, 2010). The vascular flora of North Chickamauga Creek Gorge State Natural Area, Hamilton and Sequatchie Counties, Tennessee. Castanea.

*Miller R. J., A.D. Carroll, T.P. Wilson, J. Shaw. 2009. Spatiotemporal Analysis of Three Common Wetland Invasive Plant Species Using Herbarium Specimens and Geographic Information Systems. Castanea 74(2): 133-145.

Shaw, J., E. Lickey, E. E. Schilling, and R. Small. in manuscript. The tortoise and the hare III: comparison of whole chloroplast genome sequences to choose noncoding regions for phylogenetic studies in angiosperms.

Shaw, J. and R.L. Small. in manuscript.Concordant Phylogeographic patterns of the chloroplast and nuclear genomes in the North American plum syngameon (Prunus subgenus Prunus Section Prunocerasus; Rosaceae).

Fleming, C., J. Shaw, T.S. Campbell, and D. Simberloff. A study of the invasive exotic plant species of the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Tennessee and Kentucky. (in manuscript).

Shaw, J., and R. Small. 2005. Chloroplast DNA Phylogeny and Phylogeography of the North American Plums (Prunussubgenus Prunus Section Prunocerasus; Rosaceae). American Journal of Botany 92: 2011-2030.

Small, R.L., E.B. Lickey, J. Shaw, and W.D. Hauk. 2005. Amplification of noncoding chloroplast DNA for phylogenetic studies in Lycophytes and Pteridophytes with a comparative example of relative phylogenetic utility from Ophioglossaceae. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 36: 509-522

Shaw, J., E. Lickey, J. Beck, S. Farmer, W. Liu, J. Miller, K. C. Siripun, C. Winder, E. E. Schilling, R. Small. 2005. The tortoise and the hare II: relative utility of 21 non-coding chloroplast DNA sequences for phylogenetic analysis.American Journal of Botany 92: 142.

Shaw, J., and R. Small. 2004. Addressing the hardest puzzle in American pomology: Phylogeny of Prunus sect.Prunocerasus (Rosaceae) based on seven noncoding chloroplast DNA regions. American Journal of Botany 91: 985.

Shaw, J., and B.E. Wofford. 2003. Woody plants of the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Tennessee and Kentucky and floristic comparison of selected Southern Appalachian woody floras. Castanea 68: 119-134.

Boyd, J. and J. Shaw. 2009 Plant Species of Interest Report 2009: SR2 Bridge over Nickajack Reservoir, Marion County, TN Prepared for the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

Shaw, J. 2009. Scutellaria montana Chapm. (Lamiaceae) survey along newly proposed bike trails within the Raccoon Mountain Pumped Storage Plant. Prepared for the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Shaw, J. and J. Boyd. 2009. Large Flowered Skullcap (Scutellaria montana, Lamiaceae) Monitoring 2009 at Volunteer Training Site, Catoosa Co., Georgia. Prepared for the Tennessee Army National Guard.

Shaw, J. and J. Boyd. 2009. Hypericum adpressum Evaluation Report: SR2 Bridge over Nickajack Reservoir, Marion County, TN. Prepared for the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

Shaw, J. and B.E. Wofford. 2009. Mitigating trail development impacts through pre-construction floristic surveys of the Darrow and Tar Kiln Ridges of the Big South Fork NRRA, Fentress Co., Tennessee. Prepared for the Tennessee Valley Authority.