Conner Lab

W.K. Kellogg Biological Station

Michigan State University

Raffica La Rosa

Ph.D. Candidate

3700 E Gull Lake Dr

Hickory Corners, MI 49060

Office: (269) 671-2233

Email: larosara(at)


Ph.D. Plant Biology and EEBB                             Michigan State University                 2006-present

B.S. Botany/Environmental Studies Certificate    University of Wisconsin - Madison    2003


My dissertation research is on the adaptation and evolution of novel traits. I am interested in understanding how novel traits function and how they are maintained. I am studying the unusual floral traits of milkweeds because they have flowers that are novel in three ways:

  1. 1.They package their pollen into pairs of pollen sacs called pollinia.

  2. 2.The male and female reproductive tissue is fused to form a cylindrical gynostegium.

  3. 3.Surrounding the gynostegium there is a ring of five hoods called a corona.

There are six linear traits of the gynostegium and corona that I have been studying on five species in the genus Asclepias. I hypothesize that the traits are adaptations to increase pollination and am using selection gradient analysis to identify which traits are under selection, and therefore likely to be adaptations. In addition, I am analyzing video of pollinator visits to determine how the floral traits function to increase pollination.

Since selection measurements only address present-day selection, I will also perform a comparative analysis across the Asclepiadeae tribe (including Asclepias) comparing traits and their pollinators to better understand how selection in the past, through pollinators, may have determined the size and shape of these floral traits across species. I predict I will find relationships between traits and their pollinators that cannot be explained by phylogeny alone.

Jeffrey K. Conner

3700 East Gull Lake Drive

Hickory Corners, MI 49060