Profile IntroductionI study how evolutionary history shapes the traits and ecology of species.My goals are to use ecological and evolutionary processes to understand mechanisms that allow species to coexist in complex and diverse assemblages in nature, and to also understand how evolutionary processes of adaptation and speciation influence species' niches. I am also interested in using evolutionary processes to manage biodiversity, and the linkages between these principles and disease and resource management. I use a variety of tools including field experiments in nature, greenhouse experiments, literature surveys and phylogenetic methods to answer these questions.
|1988||PhD||Biological Sciences||Florida State University|
|1984||MS||Ecology||University of Minnesota|
Evolutionary Ecology of Plants and their Interactions with other Species
Using historical and contemporary approaches to reconstruct pathways to ecological specialization.
Ecological specialists comprise a large portion of global biodiversity. In other words, not all species are equally good at living under the same conditions. In this project, undertaken with colleague N. Ivalu Cacho (UNAM), I am working to understand the evolution of soil specialization in, and the evolutionary relationships among, members of the Streptanthoid complex, a diverse group of mustards, many endemic to the California Floristic Province. We have generated an evolutionary tree (phylogenetic hypothesis) for the group ( Cacho et al 2013, Molecular Evolution and Phylogenetics) and are using this hypothesis to understand trade-offs associated with soil specialization, specifically serpentine endemism. We use current ecological competition experiments in field soils, field and trait surveys and the phylogeny to understand the selective pressures and trade-offs, including both biotic and abiotic forces, leading to edaphic specialization (Cacho and Strauss 2014 PNAS). Our field sites span Southern CA to Oregon, from deserts to high mountains, coastal areas and inland.
Streptanthus and allies are called ‘jewelflowers’ and I think they are super cool and beautiful. This beauty helps keep me going when I am struggling in their preferred habitat of hot, south-facing very loose, steep and rocky slopes.
How well does the evolutionary relatedness between two species predict their ecological similarity?
With Jean Burns and Brian Anacker, I am studying plant community assembly at the UC Bodega Marine Reserve. We use experimental approaches, planting individuals into the niches of more and less closely related species, to understand coexistence among species. By placing them in other species' niches, we can ask species how well they like it in their destination site. That's the nice thing about plants-- we can force them to grow in another species' niche. Maybe not as cute as a meerkat, but oh-so-much more tractable to ask cool ecological and evolutionary questions
We are measuring many traits and environmental attributes across our site to understand the major contributors to coexistence in this diverse community. We also examine the role of soil microbes in mediating coexistence between different plant species.
Application of evolution to biodiversity, disease and resource management
I have a long-standing interest in how to apply our understanding of evolutionary processes to problems in biodiversity maintenance and resource management. I also appreciate the many crossdiscplinary commonalities between evolutionary challenges of insecticide resistance in crops pests and drug-resistance in human disease pathogens. Moreover, evolution and refuge theory can aid us in all of these areas, such as reducing the prevalence of Bt resistance in insects, reducing the ability of cancer cells to adapt tp drug therapies, and reducing the impact of selective harvest on wild traits of fish stocks.
Department and Center Affiliations
CBS Grad Group Affiliations
Specialties / Focus
- Population Interactions
- Community Ecology
- Evolutionary Ecology and Life History Strategies
Graduate Groups not Housed in CBS
Select Recent publications(see others on my Google Scholar page). https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=Sharon+Y+strauss&btnG=&as_sdt=1%2C5&as_sdtp=
Phylogenetic conservatism in plant-soil feedback and its implications for plant abundance
Article first published online: 17 OCT 2014
© 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd/CNRS
Volume 17, Issue 12, pages 1613–1621, December 2014
Science 17 October 2014:Vol. 346 no. 6207
Applying evolutionary biology to address global challenges
Mutualist-mediated effects on species' range limits across large geographic scales
Article first published online: 22 JUL 2014
© 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd/CNRS
Volume 17, Issue 10, pages 1265–1273, October 2014
Ecological and evolutionary responses in complex communities: implications for invasions and eco‐evolutionary feedbacksSY StraussOikos 123 (3), 257-266 7 2014