Profile photo of Dr. Joey Shaw
Dr. Joey Shaw
UC Foundation Professor
Biology, Geology and Environmental Science
Ph.D. - University of Tennessee
  113 Holt

Research Interests

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

Molecular Systematics and Phylogeography are disciplines that use a suite of tools from genetics, like PCR and DNA sequencing, that can be used to better understand the evolutionary history and biogeography of a group of organisms. My lab group has ongoing projects in the genus Prunus (peaches, plums, cherries, apricots, and almonds), Castanea (chestnuts and chinquapins), and Clematis (leatherflowers). That said, I am open to other taxonomic systems that might capture the interest of future students. For example, one former graduate student worked on a phylogeographic study of Blarina (shrews) to test whether or not the Tennessee River was a barrier to gene flow between species capable of hybridization.

In addition to applying tools from genetics to solve evolutionary questions, I am also interested in the development of some of the tools. My “Tortoise and Hare” research has been focused on identifying predictable mutation rate heterogeneity among noncoding cpDNA regions so more efficient regions might be used in low-level molecular systematics studies, phylogeographic studies, and perhaps even population genetics. The results of this research have shown that mutation rate heterogeneity exists among different noncoding regions of the plastome and that it is relatively (though not perfectly) predictable across angiosperms. 


Floristics of the southeastern United States—Floristic study of plants of the southeast, the Southern Appalachians, and more specifically, the Cumberland Plateau is a primary research focus in my lab. Floristic studies are often prerequisite to conservation efforts of rare species, rare ecological systems or associations, or non-native invasive species. Cataloging plant species in various areas, e.g., federal and state natural areas, areas that have been heavily disturbed in the past, or areas in need of an environmental impact assessment, not only inform conservation efforts, but they also provide base-line data for many other types of inquiry. Studies like these in my laboratory have been funded through agencies like the Tennessee Army National Guard, the Tennessee Department of Transportation, and regional consulting companies.


Exotic Invasive Plant Studies—Many plant species have been introduced to North America and several have become naturalized among the native flora; common, familiar examples in our area are Japanese honeysuckle and kudzu, but these are only two of the ~400 naturalized exotic species of Tennessee of which about 90 species are considered a threat by the Exotic Pest Plant Council. While some of these species are easily identifiable by untrained botanists, biologists of other disciplines, or citizen scientists (e.g., kudzu and mimosa tree) others are quite difficult to differentiate from some of our native species (e.g., Chinese foxtail or foxtail millet). It is important to document 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.


Herbarium Curation—All of my research, and that of my students, has been tied to herbaria. Through my lab’s work in floristics, invasive species studies, molecular systematics, and phylogeography voucher specimens exist in the herbarium at UTC. Since beginning my research program at UTC I have grown the herbarium from 8000 specimens in six cabinets to about 40,000 specimens in 65 cabinets. While many of these new specimens support research that has come out of my lab, many other specimens have come into the UTC Herbarium by absorbing smaller collections that were not being used or through exchange programs. Collections from the Chickamauga National Battlefield, Tennessee River Gorge Trust, and Southern Adventist University (~15,000 specimens in all) are now part of the UTC Herbarium. My students are always expected to collect specimens for exchange and I have initiated exchange programs with Troy University, Towson University, University of Georgia, University of Southern Mississippi, Bridgewater College, Austin Peay State University, and the Botanical Research Institute of Texas. In all of these ways I have worked to grow the UTC Herbarium, broaden its capacity to support research and education, and thus protect this collection into the future.


Students WantedI am seeking both undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in floristics, invasive species studies, herbarium studies, taxonomic studies, or molecular phylogenetic and/or phylogeographic studies. Interested students should contact me at

Grants/Projects Since 2009

2015 Ozark Chinquapin Foundation $1,200

2014 NSF-ADBC Digitization TCN ($301,164 to UTC) $2,543,058

2014 Research and Creative Activity Grant (internal) – $6,000

2013 NSF-MRI Acquisition of growth chambers – $342,945 (not counted in totals since I did very little on this proposal)

2013 Breedlove, Dennis Associates $5,000

2012 USFWS – $680 + $7,398

2012 TN Army National Guard – $89,000

2012 TDOT/URS ($16,810 to UTC) – $34,010

2010 TDOT/URS – ($93,719 to UTC) – $178,291

2010 TDOT/URS – ($236,875 to UTC) – $428,382

2010 Tennessee Army National Guard – $17, 982

2010 Tennessee Army National Guard – $63,455

2010 Breedlove, Dennis Associates awarded $5,000

2010 Group Faculty Development Grant (internal to fund the Biology Seminar Series) – $1,500

2009 USGS National Biological Information Infrastructure-SAIN – $65,000

2009 Tennessee Army National Guard – $17, 581

2009 Tennessee Army National Guard – $50,180

2009 NPS Herbarium Cabinet gift (~$1,500)

Publications Since 2009

* denotes graduate student and ** denotes undergraduate student

Nelson, G. P. Sweeney, L.E. Wallace, R.K. Rabeler, D. Allard, H. Brown, J.R. Carter, M.W. Denslow, E.R. Ellwood, C. Germain-Aubrey, E. GIlbert, E. Gillespie, L.R. Goertzen, B. Legler, D.B. Marchant, T.D. Marsico, A.B. Morris, Z. Murrell, M. Nazaire, C. Neefus, S. Oberreiter, D. Paul, B.R. Ruhfel, T. Sasek, J. Shaw, P.S. Soltis, K. Watson, A. Weeks, and A.R. Mast. 2015. Digitization workflows for flat sheet and packets of Plants, Algae, and Fungi.  Applications in Plant Sciences. 3: 1500065.

Estes, L.D., J. Shaw, and C. Mausert-Mooney. 2015. Lysimachia lewisii (Primulaceae), a new species from Tennessee and Alabama. Phytoneuron 17: 1-15.

Shaw, J., **H. Shafer, *O.R. Leonard, M.J. Kovach, M. Schorr, and A.B. Morris. 2014. Chloroplast DNA sequence utility for the lowest phylogenetic and phylogeographic inferences in angiosperms: Tortoise and Hare IV. American Journal of Botany 101: 1987-2004.

Shaw, J. and D. Estes (in revision). Comprehensive vascular plant investigation of the Tennessee Army National Guard Volunteer Training Site, Catoosa County, Georgia. Castanea.

Beck, J., C. Ferguson, M. Mayfield, and J. Shaw. 2014. Reduced population genetic variation in black cherry (Prunus serotina subsp. serotina, Rosaceae) at its western range limit in Kansas. Northeastern Naturalist 21:472-478.

Chin, S-W., J. Shaw, R. Haberle, J. Wen, and D. Potter. 2014. Diversification of almonds, peaches, plums, and cherries – Molecular systematics and biogeographic history of Prunus (Rosaceae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 76: 34-48.

Sisco, P.H., T.C. Neel, F.V. Hebard, J.H. Craddock, and J. Shaw. 2014. Cytoplasmic male sterility in interspecific hybrids between American and Asian Castanea species is correlated with the American D chloroplast haplotype. Acta Horticulturae 1019: 215-222.

*Kile, H.M., J. Shaw, and J. Boyd. 2013. Response of federally threatened Scutellaria montana (large-flowered skullcap) to pre-transplantation burning and canopy thinning. Southeastern Naturalist: 12: 99-120.

*Blyveis, E. and J. Shaw. 2012. The vascular flora and phytogeographical analysis of the Tennessee River Gorge, Hamilton and Marion counties, Tennessee. Southeastern Naturalist 11: 599-636.

**Hart, S., D. Estes, and J. Shaw. 2012. Noteworthy collections, Tennessee. Castanea 77: 381-382.

*Montgomery, M., and J. Shaw. 2012. Clematis fremontii in the southeastern United States, naturally occurring relicts or recently introduced populations? Tipularia 27: 11-18.

Shaw, J., J.H. Craddock, and *M. Binkley. 2012. Phylogeny and phylogeography of North American Castanea Mill. (Fagaceae) using cpDNA suggests gene sharing in the Southern Appalachians (Castanea Mill., Fagaceae) Castanea 77:186-211.

Anderson, T.M., J. Shaw, and H. Olff. 2011. Ecology’s cruel dilemma, phylogenetic trait evolution and the assembly of Serengeti plant communities. Journal of Ecology 99: 797-806.

*Kile, H.M., J. Shaw, J. Nagel Boyd. 2011. Relocation success of federally threatened Scutellaria montana (Lamiaceae, Large-flowered skullcap) from a proposed highway corridor. Tennessee Academy of Sciences 86: 101-104.

*Huskins, S. and J. Shaw. 2010. The vascular flora of North Chickamauga Creek Gorge State Natural Area, Hamilton and Sequatchie Counties, Tennessee. Castanea 75:101-125.

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

*Miller, R.J., A. Carroll, T.P. Wilson, and J. Shaw. 2009. Spatiotemporal analysis of three common wetland invasive plant species using herbarium specimens and geographic information systems. Castanea 74: 133-145.

Technical Reports Since 2009

Shaw, J. 2015. Botanical survey with emphasis on rare species and communities of the wetlands surrounding South Chickamauga Creek near the I-24/I-75 interchange in Hamilton County, Tennessee. Submitted to Civil and Environmental Consultants for the TDOT.

Shaw, J. 2015. Rare plant species and communities survey of the mesic forest, glade, and riparian habitats of Catalina, Williamson County, Tennessee.  Submitted to Civil and Environmental Consultants for the TDOT.

Shaw, J. 2014. Rare plant species and communities survey of the Clarkrange Industrial Park, Fentress County, Tennessee.  Submitted to Civil and Environmental Consultants for the TDOT.

Shaw, J. and D. Estes. 2013. Botanical survey and ecological systems mapping of the Ocoee River Gorge, Polk County, Tennessee. Prepared for the Tennessee Department of Transportation under a contract from URS Inc.

Shaw, J. and D. Estes. 2012. Botanical survey and ecological systems mapping of the Ocoee River Gorge, Polk County, Tennessee. Prepared for the Tennessee Department of Transportation under a contract from URS Inc.

Shaw, J. and D. Estes. 2011. Botanical survey of the Ocoee River Gorge, Polk County, Tennessee. Prepared for the Tennessee Department of Transportation under a contract from URS Inc.

Shaw, J. 2011. A survey of potential Scutellaria montana (mountain skullcap) habitat along Apison Pike in Hamilton County, Tennessee.

Shaw, J. and J. Boyd. 2010. Scutellaria montana Evaluation Report May 2010 Proposed State Industrial Access to Serve Volkswagen from S.R. 58 to the Enterprise South Industrial Park, Hamilton County, TN. Prepared for the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

Shaw, J. and J. Boyd. 2010. Scutellaria montana Chapm. Transplantation monitoring report 2009-2010 Enterprise South Industrial Park, Hamilton County, TN. Prepared for the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

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

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. 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 National Park Service.

Recent Books/Book Chapters

Chester, Edward W., Eugene B. Wofford, Joey Shaw, Dwayne Estes, and David H. Webb. 2015. Guide to the Vascular Plants of Tennessee. University of Tennessee Press.


This book is the product of twenty-five years of planning, research, and synthesis of information. It is the most comprehensive, detailed, and up-to-date botanical resource of its kind for Tennessee, which is the richest land-locked state in the eastern USA and home to nearly 2,900 species and lesser taxa. Included in this book are dichotomous keys for identifying the major groups (ferns and allies, gymnosperms, monocots, dicots), families, genera, species, and lesser taxa known to be native or naturalized within the state. There are also notes on Tennessee’s plant species including information on species distribution, nativity, frequency of occurrence, conservation status including rarity or invasiveness, and more.  Opening chapters also include descriptive information about the state’s botanical history and physical environment and vegetation.