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SI Peter Buck Fellow and Botanist, Dr. Marcelo Pace on Sphingiphila

Posted on November 2, 2016 by in The OFI Blog

Dr. Marcelo Pace

SI Peter Buck Postdoctoral Fellow, Dr. Marcelo R. Pace is in residence in NMNH‘s Department of Botany until July 2018. Pace received his Ph.D. in Botany with emphasis on evolution and diversification of the vascular system in lineages that contain lianas at the University of São Paulo, Brazil, in October 2015. His major interest is to understand the origin of vascular diversity in lineages of plants that contain vines and the role of ontogenetic modifications in this process. Pace has published 10 papers exploring different aspects of vascular evolution, including both wood and bark anatomical diversification. At the Smithsonian he is interested in exploring the link between the evolution of complex anatomies, also known as cambial variants, and changes in diversification rates in the family Malpighiaceae.

In addition to his fellowship research Pace has also been researching the family Bignoniaceae. His most recent paper is on Sphingiphila, the single most unusual genus within the family Bignoniaceae. Natural to the Chaco region in Paraguay and Bolivia, this genus exhibits simple leaves, tetramerous flowers, spiny stems and a treelet habit. Such unusual features made the tribal placement of Sphingiphila difficult. Using molecular and wood anatomical data, Sphingiphila has been shown to belong to a large clade of Neotropical lianas, where other species have also attained the shrubby or treelet habit when occupying dry savannah-like areas. Since beginning his fellowship in July, 2016 with Dr. Pedro Acevedo as his advisor, Pace has already published an article on Sphingiphila in the journal, Taxon. To read the article in its entirety, click here. Pace is also an author on an upcoming book entitled, IAWA List of Microscopic Bark Features.

Pace says, “The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History is a leading botanical institution, with excellent representation of Malpighiaceae both in the herbarium and wood collection. Dr. Pedro Acevedo, my sponsor, is world expert in Neotropical lianas and use stem cambial variants as means to easily identify lianas in the field, with the creation of field guides and online resources. His numerous collections and his expertise come as a perfect match to my project. Together we aim to cross data of phylogeny, ontogeny and evolution to unravel the role of cambial variants in land plant diversification. I feel personally honored and excited with the opportunity that was given to me. Working at the Smithsonian Institution is a dream and a great achievement in my career. This dream would not have been fulfilled if it were not for Peter Buck Fellowship, for which I am profoundly thankful.”