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David A. Baum

Associate Professor of Botany

Office: 340 Birge Hall
(608) 265-5385/7929

Floral evolution, molecular systematics, plant developmental evolution, conceptual issues in systematics and evolutionary biology


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My goal is to understand how plant form evolves as a function of changes in developmental regulatory genes and to relate this to the functioning of plants in their natural environments.  To achieve this my lab conducts research on a number of plants groups using a diversity of experimental strategies including developmental genetics, transgenetics, phylogenetics, morphological development, pollination ecology, and phylogenetic analysis. 

My lab is very much an interdisciplinary meeting ground fostering a diversity of ideas and outlooks.  The students and post-docs have varied backgrounds.  Our lab meetings are journal club style with papers from a wide range of fields.  Much of the best learning and brainstorming happens during teatime or sitting out on Bascom Hill.




The evolution of plant development: Inflorescence evolution in Brassicaceae


  This project involves studies of gene expression in species with altered inflorescence architecture and introducing candidate genes into Arabidopsis by transformation to evaluate evolutionary changes in gene function.  Click here for more information on inflorescence evolution.


Molecular systematics

   The majority of the systematic work in my lab is focused on the Malvales (the cotton family and its relatives).  Our aim is to reconstruct the group's phylogeny at all levels and to use the results to clarify the pattern of floral evolution in the group and its correlation with shifts in pollination mechanism. This work involves molecular phylogenetic analysis, studies of flower development, and comparative studies of gene expression. Click here for more information on Malvales.

   In addition to this work in Malvales, graduate students in my lab have worked on a diversity of other plant groups (see the people pages).

Theoretical Interests

   In addition, to empirical projects I spend a portion of my time working on phylogenetic and evolutionary theory.  I am particularly interested in understanding the nature of "species" as products of evolutionary history.  To this end I have delved into some of the philosophical literature dealing with the ontology of individuals. I  am also interested in clarifying the theory behind the testing of hypotheses of adaptation.  My current project in this regard is the development of a Bayesian framework for estimating the strength of selection acting when a character under study went to fixation. Lastly,  I have been dabbling in the problem of homology and attempting to bring the philosophy of individuality to bear.

Recent Publications

Howarth, D. G., M. H. G. Gustafsson, D. A. Baum & T. J. Motley. Phylogenetics of the genus Scaevola (Goodeniaceae): Implications for dispersal patterns across the Pacific Basin and colonization of the Hawaiian Islands. American Journal of Botany 90 (6): 915-923.

L. C. Hileman &  D. A. Baum. 2003.  Why Do Paralogs Persist? Molecular evolution of CYCLOIDEA and related floral symmetry genes in Antirrhineae (Veronicaceae). Molecular Biology and Evolution 20 (4): 591 - 600. 

Baum, D. A. 2002. Identifying the genetic causes of phenotypic evolution: A review of experimental strategies. Pages 493-507 in Q.C.B. Cronk, R. M. Bateman & J. Hawkins, eds. Developmental Genetics and Plant Evolution. Taylor and Francis, London.

Baum, D. A. & M. J. Donoghue. 2001. A likelihood framework for the study of adaptation. Pages 24-44 in S. Orzack and E. Sober, eds. Adaptationism and Optimality, Cambridge University Press, New York.

Shu, G. G., W. Amaral, L. C. Hileman & D. A. Baum. 2000. LEAFY and the evolution of rosette flowering in violet cress (Jonopsidium acaule, Brassicaceae). American Journal of Botany 87(5): 634-641.

Other Selected Publications

Alverson, W. S., R. Nyffeler, B. Whitlock, C. Bayer & D. A. Baum. 1999. Phylogenetic analysis of the core Malvales based on sequences of ndhF. American Journal of Botany 86:1474-1486.

Baum, D. A., R. Small & J. F. Wendel. 1998. Biogeography and floral evolution of Baobabs (Adansonia, Bombacaceae) as inferred from multiple data sets. Systematic Biology 47:181-207.

Baum, D. A. &  K. L. Shaw. 1995. Genealogical perspectives on the species problem.  Pp. 289-303 in P. C. Hoch & A. G. Stephenson, eds.  Molecular and experimental approaches to plant biosystematics.   Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis.

Baum, D. A. 1995. The comparative pollination and floral biology of Baobabs (Adansonia - Bombacaceae). Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 82 (2): 322-348.

Baum, D. A. & A. Larson. 1991. Adaptation reviewed - A phylogenetic methodology for studying character macroevolution. Systematic Zoology 40 (1): 1-18.

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2000-01 University of Wisconsin Department of Botany
Last updated: 31 August 2001