Biologist Timothy Evans Receives NSF
For Tropical Plant Research
Posted March 19, 2002
HOLLAND -- Dr. Timothy Evans of the Hope College
biology faculty has been awarded a grant from the National
Science Foundation (NSF) Systematics Program to study the
pineapple family in South America, a project that he hopes
will ultimately help enhance understanding of how a variety
of tropical species interrelate.
"As far as tropical diversity is concerned, this
is a really critical group," Evans said. "Understanding the
evolutionary history of this group will serve as a
foundation for understanding a whole range of organisms."
The plants are found in the Atlantic Forest region
of Brazil. Evans noted that many of the species are "tank-
forming," shaped such that they become reservoirs for
rainwater, creating a place in which a variety of species
feed, breed and live.
The plants, in turn, rely on other plants. They
are epiphytes, meaning that they grow on other plants, using
them as an anchor, instead of sprouting from the ground.
The three-year, $140,000 award from the NSF is
coupled to a second award to Dr. Gregory Brown at the
University of Wyoming. Together, Evans and Brown and their
research teams will be making the first attempt to trace
genetic relationships between these members of the family, a
process that will include DNA testing.
"What I'll be doing is looking at the DNA and
looking for mutations in the DNA that will tell me about the
family history of the plants," Evans said. Previous
analysis, he said, has been based on systems of
classification that, grounded in observation and
consideration of plant behavior, could not help but be
subjective and intuitively based. The new study will use
modern methods to evaluate the previous, subjective
Students from Hope, the University of Wyoming, and
Federal University, Rio de Janeiro, will be involved in all
aspects of the work, including collecting plants in the
field, studying the plants themselves and conducting the DNA
Evans has been a member of the Hope faculty since
1997. Brown was his advisor while Evans was a student at
the University of Wyoming, where he completed his bachelor's
and master's degrees. Evans holds his doctorate from the
University of Wisconsin.