John L. Clark

Associate ProfessorPhone: (205) 348-1826


Dr. Clark’s Lab Webpage

John Clark received a Ph.D. in Biology from George Washington University in 2005 and completed his postdoctoral research at the University of Utah. He was appointed Assistant Professor at the University of Alabama in 2006.

Research Interests

Research in my lab emphasizes biodiversity through field and lab-based approaches that address phylogeny, pollination biology, biogeography, and ecology. My broad interests allow me to combine a variety of scientific approaches, such as DNA sequencing, field observations and surveys, and manipulative experiments, to attempt to explain the evolutionary history and ecology of various plant groups. Since 1994 I have developed and implemented various biodiversity research projects throughout the New World Tropics (especially Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, and Cuba). These projects have helped understand the distribution, taxonomy, and evolutionary relationships of critically endangered flora.

Since the time of Darwin naturalists and biologists used patterns of morphological variation among species to make inferences about relationships, and evolutionary processes such as natural selection and adaptive radiation. Research in my lab aims to combine an ecological and field-based approach towards developing a classification that reflects the morphological similarity in related and unrelated lineages.

My own fascination with floral diversification resulted from four years of living in the tropics and attempting to understand the relationships, classification, and biology of common plants that either had no name, or no intuitive generic boundaries, and from a desire to understand the interaction of the animals that visited them.

All students in my lab are actively engaged in field and lab-based approaches. Some of our current research projects, papers, and presentations are listed below. Please visit my website to learn more about the students and their projects.

1) Rediscovery of Phinaea pulchella in Cuba strongly supports an independent origin of radial flower symmetry in the Gloxinieae (Gesnerioideae: Gesneriaceae).

2) A molecular phylogeny of Paradrymonia: Insights for a new classification of a polyphyletic genus.

3)  A preliminary phylogeny of Drymonia (Gesneriaceae) inferred from nuclear and chloroplast sequence data.

4)  Diversification of Drymonia: multiple shifts between bee-adapted and hummingbird-adapted flowers.

Currently Funded and Future Research

I am currently funded by two grants from the National Science Foundation to conduct research on the phylogeny and taxonomy of the genera Columnea and Drymonia. These grants have helped us discover that there are numerous transitions between bee-adapted and bird-adapted flowers and a remarkable diversity of flower shapes and colors. The shift between pollinators is often associated with flower shape. In particular, the presence of pouched or hypocyrtoid corolla are often good indicators of bird or anti-bee pollination. Hypocyrtoid flowers are independently derived in nearly every major Gesneriaceae clade from Central and South America. We are interested in understanding the biology of pouched flowers in speciation, diversification, and pollination biology.


Selected Publications

Clark, J.L. J. Matos, S. Suarez T., S. Ginzbarg, and L.E. Skog. In press. An annotated species list for the Gesneriaceae of Cuba. Proceedings for the 2010 World Gesneriaceae Research Conference. Selbyana.

Clark, J.L. 2013. A new species of Drymonia (Gesneriaceae) from the eastern slopes of the Ecuadorian Andes. Brittonia 65: 181-185.

Smith, J. F. and J. L. Clark. 2013. Molecular phylogenetic analyses reveal undiscovered monospecific Genera in the tribe Episcieae (Gesneriaceae). Systematic Botany 38: 451-463.

Clark, J.L. and L. Clavijo. 2012. Columnea antennifera, a new species of Gesneriaceae from the Cordillera Central of the Columbian Andes. Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas 6: 385-390.

Clark, J.L., M.M. Funke, A.M. Duffy, and J.F. Smith. 2012. Phylogeny of a Neotropical clade in the Gesneriaceae: more tales of convergent evolution. International Journal of Plant Sciences 173: 894-916.

Clark, J.L. 2012. Gasteranthus diverticularis, a new species of Gesneriaceae from southern Ecuador. Brittonia 64: 1-5.

Clark, J.L., E. H. Roalson, R. A. Pritchard, C. L. Coleman, V. Teoh, and J. Matos. 2011. Independent origin of radial floral symmetry in the Gloxinieae (Gesnerioideae: Gesneriaceae) is supported by the rediscovery of Phinaea pulchella in Cuba. Systematic Botany 36: 757-767.

Clark, J.L., D.A. Neill, J.A. Gruhn, A. Weber, and T. Katan. 2010. Shuaria (Gesneriaceae), an arborescent new genus from the Cordillera del Cóndor and Amazonian Ecuador. Systematic Botany 35: 662-674.

Clark, J.L.  2009. Systematics of Glossoloma (Gesneriaceae). Systematic Botany Monographs 89: 1-126.

Clark, J.L., D.A. Neill, and M. Asanza. 2006. Floristic checklist of the Mache-Chindul Mountains of Northwestern Ecuador. Smithsonian Institution Contributions from the United States National Herbarium 54: 1-180.

Clark, J.L., P.S. Herendeen, L.E. Skog, and E.A. Zimmer. 2006. Phylogenetic relationships and generic boundaries in the Episcieae (Gesneriaceae) inferred from nuclear, chloroplast, and morphological data. Taxon 55: 313-336.

Clark, J.L. 2005. A Monograph of Alloplectus (Gesneriaceae). Selbyana 25: 182-209.