I am using Piper (including Macropiper) taxa found in Oceania to explore issues of species diversification, radiation events, and character evolution. A phylogenetic approach using both morphological characters and molecular sequence variation will be implemented to reconstruct the evolutionary relationships within the large Piper genus (1,000+ spp.). Currently, phylogenetic relationships within the Piperaceae and within Piper are largely unresolved so plans to elucidate phylogenetic divergences will be at the intergeneric, interspecific, and infraspecific levels with the strongest focus on Oceanic taxa.
The reproductive biology of Piper has received little study in the past so I would like to explore this topic further, specifically in terms of looking at the evolution of monoecy and dioecy among Piper species. Another interesting topic that deserves more attention is the mutualistic interaction between Piper and Pheidole bicornis ants. This mutualism is currently being studied in neotropical systems. Iím interested in discovering the prevalence and global geographic distribution of this interaction, and learning how it evolved. Lastly, Piper methysticum (kava) is a culturally important plant in Polynesia and I plan to learn of other species used ethnobotanically in this region.