Pamela S. Soltis

University of Florida

Election Year: 2016
Primary Section: 25, Plant Biology
Secondary Section: 27, Evolutionary Biology
Membership Type: Member


Pamela S. Soltis is a plant evolutionary biologist recognized for her work in angiosperm phylogenetics and polyploid speciation. She is particularly well known for helping to reshape interpretations of the evolutionary history of flowering plants and for using these inferences to address major events in plant evolution, such as the origin of the flower. Her work has also demonstrated the genetic, genomic, and evolutionary consequences of polyploidy and the key dynamic role that polyploidy has played in angiosperm evolution. Soltis was born in Ohio and grew up in Iowa. She graduated from Central College, Pella, Iowa, with a degree in biology. She received a PhD in botany from the University of Kanas in 1986. She joined the faculty at Washington State University later that year and moved to the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida in 2000. She has served as president of the Society of Systematic Biologists and the Botanical Society of America.

Research Interests

Pamela S. Soltis and her lab study plant evolutionary biology. Her research is motivated by her passion for biodiversity, especially plants. She uses genomic and computational methods to understand patterns and processes of plant evolution. She and her colleagues were among the first to reconstruct large-scale phylogenetic trees for angiosperms (flowering plants), and she uses these trees and methods to address a range of questions in plant evolution and ecology. Through this work, they identified Amborella, a shrub from New Caledonia, as the sister group of all other living angiosperms, providing an important reference for comparative biology. The Amborella genome shows evidence of an ancient whole-genome duplication (polyploidy), which occurred prior to the origin of all flowering plants. Similar whole-genome duplications have occurred throughout angiosperm evolution and are often associated with bursts of speciation. Analysis of polyploid species that originated during the past century is identifying the key consequences of whole-genome duplication on chromosome structure, karyotypes, gene content, and gene expression. Polyploidy generates novelty and diversity at genetic, chromosomal, individual, and ecological levels. The diversity of plants is archived in the world’s natural history collections, and these specimens offer untapped resources for molecular, evolutionary, and ecological analyses. Her ongoing work seeks to harness the power of these collections – both physical and digital – for novel research applications. She is particularly interested in linking heterogeneous data to gain new insight into plant evolution and to contribute to plant conservation.

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