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Yatskievych, George

George A Yatskievych

Curator, Lecturer
Plant Resources Center, Biology Instruction Office


Plant systematics & conservation, collections-based botany

george.yatskievych@austin.utexas.edu

Phone: 512-471-5904

Office Location
MAI 127

Postal Address
The University of Texas at Austin
PLANT RESOURCE CTR
110 INNER CAMPUS DR, Stop F0404
AUSTIN, TX 78712-1711

PERSONAL:

  • Born in Kassel, Germany. Married to Kay Yatskievych, no children, two cats, one dog.

EDUCATION:

  • Ph.D., (1990) Plant Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington
  • M.S., (1982) Horticulture (Plant Sciences), University of Arizona, Tucson
  • B.S., (1979)  Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, Tucson

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE:

  • 2016–present — Research Associate, Botanical Research Institute of Texas
  • 2015–present — Curator, Plant Resources Center, University of Texas at Austin
  • 2015–present — Research Associate, Missouri Botanical Garden
  • 2002–2011 — Research Associate, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
  • 2001–2015 — Research Associate Professor (adjunct), Dept. of Biology, University of Missouri–St. Louis
  • 1987–2015 — Curator, Missouri Botanical Garden
  • 1987–2005 — Botanist and Resource Scientist, Missouri Dept. of Conservation

I was born into a military family. We moved to a new place every few years, but I consider Arizona, where my parents retired, to be my home state. Although I learned an appreciation for nature early from walks in the woods with my mother, I did not develop a career interest in plant science until my sophomore year in college. However, once bitten by the botany bug, it consumed me, and soon I was working in the University of Arizona herbarium while botanizing in the mountains, deserts, and wetlands of Arizona on weekends. There is no substitute for experiencing plants in nature, and my interest in photography was, in part, an outgrowth of my field work. Early in my career, I also became passionate about the conservation of plants and the places they grow. When I am getting ready to sleep at night, I tend to read a lot, mostly science-fiction and fantasy novels.

As a botanist, I consider myself to be a generalist, rather than having a narrow focus.  My main research interests involve three interrelated focal areas: floristics, plant systematics, and plant conservation.  Additionally, my career has been closely linked to herbarium development.  Herbaria are museums of systematically arranged, preserved plant specimens that both voucher the occurrences of particular plant species at particular times and places on the earth and that provide documented materials for a wide variety of research, education, and outreach efforts.

Floristics is the study of the diversity, abundance, and distribution of plant species within a defined geographical area.  This may be as small as a county park or as large as a country or continent.  During the period from 1987 through 2015, my primary floristic focus was on the Flora of Missouri (for which we produced a massive 3-volume printed work and associated online materials), and I continue to contribute to evolving knowledge of that region’s flora.  Since moving to Texas in late 2015, I have begun discussions about projects in the central portion of the state (the Hill Country) and in other under-explored portions of the state.  Over the years I have also been involved with the Flora of North America Project, for which a huge community of botanists is collaborating to produce an encyclopedic treatment of the flora of the U.S., Canada, and Greenland in 30 volumes.  Outside of that region, I also contribute treatments to collaborative projects in various other countries, such as parts of Mexico, Central America, South America, China, and Pakistan.  Floristics is also linked to phytogeography, the study of plant distributions, and I continue to be interested in both how present distributions of plant species came to be and factors that contribute to how these distributions are changing over time.

As a botanist, I have participated in explorations to discover new plant species and to rediscover populations of poorly known plants.  However, describing plant diversity is only half of the job of the plant systematist.  The other part involves formulating hypotheses of taxonomic relationships among plant species and groups.  These investigations involve accumulating data from a variety of sources, including macro- and micro-morphology, chromosome numbers, DNA sequences, etc., in order to evaluate potentially shared, derived characters useful in creating phylogenetic classifications.  The field of plant systematics has increasingly become focused on laboratory-based inquiry, but my research has retained a strong component of field- and collections-based investigations.  I have specialized mainly in certain groups of ferns and parasitic flowering plants.  Early in my career, I became fascinated with plants that do not conform to preconceived notions of “normal” plants.  Thus my taxonomic research has tended to involve plant groups that have unusual adaptations, such as ferns growing in dry environments, as well as angiosperms that have lost the capacity to photosynthesize and instead draw food and water directly through connections to host plants.  These projects often involve collaborations with other botanists, as these plant groups frequently have extensive geographic ranges.

As a field-oriented biologist, it is impossible not to become aware of plant endangerment.  Plant populations documented by historical herbarium specimens become increasingly difficult to relocate in the field, productive sites for botanical exploration disappear between field trips, and many plants once common in an area decline in abundance.  Anthropogenic disturbances, disruptions of natural phenomena such as fire- and flood-cycles, and rapid climate change have acted to put an estimated 25% or more of the U.S. flora at risk, and similar levels of endangerment have been proposed for many other regions.  My research interest is mainly at the level of individual plant species.  In examining the details of a given plant’s life history, can we determine what factors are likely to have the greatest influence on the species’ decline? Thus, I work with pollination biologists, ecologists, and population geneticists to try to piece together the factors that limit a species’ ability to meet its ecological and reproductive potential.  Understanding the factors that are most important in causing a species to decline helps other conservation biologists and land managers to design strategies attempting to stabilize or recover populations of that species.

Selected publications:

The Pteridophyte Phylogeny Group. 2016. A community-derived classification for extant lycophytes and ferns. J. Syst. Evol. 54: 563–603.

Bowe, L. M., and G. Yatskievych. 2016. Cynoglossum creticum in the North American flora. Lundellia 19: 39–46.

Colwell, A. E. M., and G. Yatskievych. 2016. Orobanche robbinsii (Orobanchaceae), a new species of parasitic plant from coastal California. Phytoneuron 2016-58: 1–11.

Collins, L. T., and G. Yatskievych. 2015. Orobanche arizonica sp. nov. and nomenclatural changes in Orobanche cooperi (Orobanchaceae). Phytoneuron 2015-48: 1–19.

Zhang, L., C. J. Rothfels, A. Ebihara, E. Schuettpelz, T. Le Péchon, P. Kamau, H. He, X.-M. Zhou, J. Prado, A. Field, G. Yatskievych, X.-F. Gao, and L.-B. Zhang. 2014. A global plastid phylogeny of the brake fern genus Pteris (Pteridaceae) and related genera in the Pteridoideae. Cladistics 31: 406–423.

Grusz, A. L., M. D. Windham, G. Yatskievych, L. Huiet. G. J. Gastony, and K. M. Pryer. 2014. Patterns of diversification in the xeric-adapted fern genus Myriopteris (Pteridaceae). Syst. Bot. 39: 698–714.

Schuettpelz, E., A. Davila, J. Prado, R. Y. Hirai, and G. Yatskievych. 2014. Molecular phylogenetic and morphological affinities of Adiantum senae (Pteridaceae). Taxon 63: 258–264.

Yatskievych, G., R. J. Evans, and C. T. Witsell. 2013. A reevaluation of the Ozark endemic, Claytonia ozarkensis (Montiaceae). Phytoneuron 2013-50: 1–11.

Jessee, L.H., and G. Yatskievych. 2011. A new putative hybrid in Silphium (Asteraceae: Heliantheae). Phytoneuron 2011-62: 1–7.

Sigel, E. M., M. D. Windham, L. Huiet, G. Yatskievych, and K. M. Pryer. 2011. Species relationships and farina evolution in the cheilanthoid fern genus Argyrochosma (Pteridaceae). Syst. Bot. 36: 554–564.

Beck, J. B., M. D. Windham, G. Yatskievych, and K. M. Pryer. 2010. A diploids-first approach to species delimitation and interpreting polyploid evolution in the fern genus Astrolepis (Pteridaceae). Syst. Bot. 35: 223–234.

Yatskievych, G. 1999–2013. Steyermark's Flora of Missouri, Second Edition, Volume 1 (1999), Volume 2 (2006), Volume 3 (2013). Missouri Botanical Garden Press and the Missouri Department of Conservation, St. Louis and Jefferson City.

Native Plant Pioneers Award, Missouri Prairie Foundation (2015)

Fellow, Academy of Science–St. Louis (2014).

Trustees Award, Distinguished Scientists Awards Program, Academy of Science–St. Louis (2014).

Missouri Native Plant Society: John E. Wylie Service Award (2004), Julian A. Steyermark Award, (1999), Lifetime Achievement Award (2015).

Edgar T. Wherry Award, Botanical Society of America, Pteridological Section (1989).

Indiana Academy of Science, Best Student Paper Award, annual meeting (1987).

Selected Presentations and Posters:

Yatskievych, G.  2016.  Rarity and endangerment in Texas ferns and lycophytes: Causes and special considerations.  Contributed paper, Texas Plant Conservation 2016 Conference, Fort Worth, TX.

Yatskievych, G.  2016.  In search of the little hermit: describing a new genus of parasitic plants from Mexico.  Invited Seminar, Department of Biology, Texas Lutheran University, Sabine TX.

Mohn, R., J. Swift, G. Yatskievych, and C. Edwards.  2016.  Population genetic analysis of disjunct Ozark and Appalachians populations of tall larkspur (Delphinium exaltatum).  Contributed poster, presented at the Botany 2016 Conference, Savannah, GA.

Yatskievych, G.  2015.  The natural history background as scientific support for community partnerships to bring nature back into urban environments: A Missouri Botanical Garden perspective.  BiodiverseCity St. Louis: Cultivating Community Partnerships (Panel Session), Botanical Gardens Conservation International, International Congress on Education in Botanic Gardens, St. Louis, MO.

Rhodes, Z., E. A. Hooper, and G. Yatskievych.  2014.  Description of a new African fern species belonging to Triplophyllum (Tectariaceae).  Contributed poster, presented at the Botany 2014 Conference, Boise, ID.

Underwood, M., and G. Yatskievych.  2014.  Review of the Missouri Natural Heritage Program for Plants.  Invited paper, Missouri Botanical Symposium, Rolla, MO.

Yatskievych, G., and R. L. Hill.  2013.  Notes on diversity and endangerment in the Missouri flora.  Invited paper, Missouri Botanical Symposium, Rolla, MO.

Gastony, G., T. Nakazato, and G. Yatskievych.  2012.  Systematics and phylogeny of the recently rediscovered Anogramma ascensionis (Pteridaceae) using data from AFLPs, rbcL sequences, and morphology.  Contributed paper, presented at the Botany 2012 Conference, Columbus, OH.

Van Devender, T. R., A. L. Reina-Guerrero, G. M. Ferguson, G. Yatskievych, B. E. Loyola-Reina, G. Yanes-Arvayo, J. L. Anderson, S. F. Hale, S. Jacobs, M. P Montañez-Armenta.  2012.  Preliminary Flora of the Sky Island Sierra Bacadéhuachi, Sonora, Mexico.  Contributed paper, presented at the Madrean Archipelago Symposium, Tucson, AZ.

Hooper, E., G. Yatskievych, L. Huiet, M. Windham, and K. Pryer.  2011.  Into or out of Africa? What do molecular data reveal about the identity and biogeographic origin of Aleuritopteris farinosa (Forssk.) Fée (Pteridaceae)? Contributed paper, presented at the Botany 2011 Conference, St. Louis MO.

Croft, G., G. Yatskievych, and B. Schaal.  2011.  Claytonia ozarkensis (Montiaceae): genetic variation in a rare spring beauty endemic to the Ozarks and its relatives.  Contributed paper, presented at the Botany 2011 Conference, St. Louis MO.

Windham, M. D., L. Huiet, E. Schuettpelz, G. Yatskievych, and K. M. Pryer.  2010.  Molecular markers reveal major lineages, migration patterns, and monophyletic groups among cheilanthoid ferns.  Contributed paper, presented at the 5th International Conference on Asian Pteridology, Shenzhen, China.

Hooper, E. A., G. Yatskievych, L. Huiet, M. Windham, and K. M. Pryer.  2010.  New morphological and molecular insights into the Aleuritopteris farinosa (Forssk.) Fée complex (Pteridaceae; Cheilanthoideae).  Contributed paper, presented at the 5th International Conference on Asian Pteridology, Shenzhen, China.