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Associate Director of Research & Head Curator of the Herbaria

Melissa Islam, Ph.D.
Ph.D., Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado, 2011
M.S., Botany, Colorado State University, 2005
Research Interest: 
  • Systematics of rare Colorado plants
  • Systematics of medicinal or food plants

My research has focused on the evolutionary history of plants useful to humans. My current projects include investigating the systematics and biogeography of the tropical plant genus Erythroxylum (coca) and unraveling the relationships of the species formally placed in the genus Condaliopsis (Rhamnaceae).

Here at the Gardens, my research focus will shift to questions of diversity and ancestry of Southern Rocky Mountain Region plants and plants of similar regions around the world. The bulk of my research program will focus on three areas of systematic research; placement of rare plants within an evolutionary context, species delineation and biogeography. For many genera in Colorado that include rare plants, we do not know the evolutionary history of these species. By combining the genetic and demographic research currently conducted in the Research and Conservation Department with the evolutionary history of a rare species, we can tease out the contributions of intrinsic versus extrinsic factors that influence the population health of the species and make specific management recommendations. At least some of these groups are also taxonomically difficult and are in need of revision. By revising a taxonomically difficult group using both molecular and morphological techniques, we can further our understanding of the Colorado flora enabling conservation workers to better identify what species occur on their lands and determine if any of those species require special management.

Curriculum Vitae: 

Burge, D.O., D.M. Erwin, M.B. Islam, J. Kellermann, S.W. Kembel, D.H. Wilken, and P.S. Manos. 2011. Diversification of Ceanothus (Rhamnaceae) in the California Floristic Province. International Journal of Plant Sciences. 172(9): 1137-1164.

Sundue, M., M.B. Islam, and T.A. Ranker. 2011. Systematics of grammitid ferns (Polypodiaceae): using morphology and plastid sequence data to resolve the circumscription of Melpomene and the polyphyletic genera Lellingeria and Terpsichore. Systematic Botany 35: 701-715.

Emche, S.D., D. Zhang, M.B. Islam, B.A. Bailey, and L.W. Meinhardt. 2011. AFLP Phylogeny of 36 Erythroxylum species. Genetic Relationships among Erythroxylum species inferred by AFLP analysis. Tropical Biology 4(2): 126-133.

Islam, M.B. and R. Guralnick. 2008. Chapter 6: Generic Placement of Ziziphus celata. In Continuation of Research on the Federally-listed Lake Wales Ridge Endemic Florida Ziziphus (Ziziphus celata), Final Report to Plant Conservation Program, Florida Division of Forestry. (Weekley, C.W. and Menges, E.S., eds). Archbold Biological Station, Lake Placid, FL.

Islam, M.B. and M.P. Simmons. 2006. A Thorny Dilemma: Testing Alternative Intrageneric Classifications within Ziziphus (Rhamnaceae). Systematic Botany 31(4): 826-842.

——, M.P. Simmons, and R.H. Archer. 2006. Phylogeny of the Elaeodendron Group (Celastraceae) Inferred from Morphological Characters and Nuclear and Plastid Genes. Systematic Botany 31(3): 512-524.

Conference Abstract: 

Islam, M.B. 2011. Discovering the Wild Relatives of the Cultivated Cocas (Erythroxylum). VI Congreso Colombiano de Botánica, Cali, Colombia.

Islam, M.B., T. Ranker. 2011. The Evolutionary History of the Cultivated Cocas (Erythroxylum). BOTANY 2011, St. Louis, MO.

Islam, M.B. 2010. Tracing the Evolutionary History of Coca. Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA and CU Museum, Boulder, CO.

Islam, M.B. 2009. Pele’s Sacred Garden, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. CU EEB. Brown Bag Series, Boulder, CO.

Sundue, M., M.B. Islam, and T.A. Ranker. 2008. Systematics of grammitid ferns: the genera Lellingeria, Melpomene, and Terpsichore. BOTANY 2008, Vancouver, BC.

Islam, M.B. and M.P. Simmons. 2005. Phylogenetic Relationships in Ziziphus (Rhamnaceae): Testing Alternative Intrageneric Classifications. BOTANY 2005, Austin, TX.

Islam, M.B., M.P. Simmons, and R.H. Archer. 2005. Phylogeny of the Elaeodendron Group (Celastraceae) Inferred from Morphological Characters and Nuclear and Plastid Genes. BOTANY 2005, Austin, TX.