Melissa Luckow

Melissa Luckow

Associate Professor

502 Mann Library Building
(607) 255-7829

My research focuses on speciation and phylogeny of flowering plants, particularly the legume family. I am currently working on several interrelated projects in the mimosoid legumes. The first is a study of three genera in the Dichrostachys group. This group has radiated widely throughout Madagascar, with all but three of approximately 30 species endemic to the island. The group provides a model system for investigating the evolution of Malagasy plants both because there are a large number of species and because they are widely distributed throughout the dry, seasonally dry, and moist forests of Madagascar. This study integrates morphological, developmental, molecular, pollination, and distribution data from the Dichrostachys group to address fundamental questions about the diversification of this unique island biota. I have also initiated a higher level study, working with Australian and American scientists to put together a phylogeny of all mimosoid legumes, using both morphological and molecular characters. Thus far we have produced a molecular phylogeny based on four chloroplast genes and are currently working on parallel data sets using other genes and morphological data. These data have been pivotal in demonstrating that the tribes do not form natural groups and that the large genus Acacia must be broken up into 3-5 genera. I am also producing monographic treatments of mimosoid genera, with descriptions and keys for identification. My work is an important component of the study of biodiversity and provides baseline data about our rapidly disappearing biota. A phylogenetic context is indispensable to the agricultural evaluation and development of mimosoid legumes. Reliable identification keys to the genera, with comprehensive descriptions, will be widely used by taxonomists, foresters, plant breeders, and ecologists.

Research Focus

I work on the systematics of tropical legumes in the subfamily Mimosoideae. My work has focussed on groups in both the New World and Old World (African) tropics and encompasses an understanding of evolutionary relationships based on molecular and morphological data, as well as collection and description of new species. My research also serves as a basis for understanding biogeographic relationships and the biodiversity of ecosystems.

Teaching Focus

Biopl 2430 Taxnomy of Cultivated Plants

Selected Publications

Journal Publications

  • Moore, G., Figueriedo, E., Demissew, S., Lewis, G., Schrire, B., Rico, L., Luckow, M. A., van Wyk, A., & Keisling, R. (2011). The Acacia controversy resulting from minority rule at the Vienna Nomenclature Section: Much more than arcane arguments and complex technicalities. . Taxon. 60:852-857.
  • Burke, J. M., Sanchez, A., Kron, K., & Luckow, M. A. (2010). Placing the woody tropical genera of Polygonaceae: A hypothesis of character evolution and phylogeny. American Journal of Botany. 97:1377-1390.
  • Sede, S., Tosto, D., Talia, P., Luckow, M. A., Poggio, C., & Fortunato, R. (2009). Phylogenetic relationships among southern South American species of Camptosema, Galactia, and Collaea (Diocleinae: Papilionoideae: Leguminosae) on the basis of molecular and morphological data. Australian Journal of Botany. 57:76-86.
  • Luckow, M. A. (2008). Galactia dimorphophylla (Leguminosae: Phaseoleae), a new species from southeastern South America. Brittonia. 60:349-354.
  • Jobson, R. W., & Luckow, M. A. (2007). Phylogenetic study of the genus Piptadenia (Fabaceae: Mimosoideae) using Plastid trnL-F and trnK/matK sequence data. Systematic Botany. 32:560-575.
  • Smith, G. F., van Wyk, A. E., Luckow, M. A., & Schrire, B. (2006). Conserving Acacia Mill. with a conserved type. What happened in Vienna?. Taxon. 55:223-225.
  • Choi, H. K., Luckow, M. A., Doyle, J. J., & Cook, D. R. (2006). Development of nuclear gene-derived markers linked to legume genetic maps. Molecular Genetics and Genomics. 276:56-70.
  • Luckow, M. A., Hughes, M. C., Schrire, B., Winter, P., Fagg, C., Fortunato, R., Hurter, J., Rico, L., Breteler, F. J., Bruneau, A., Caccavari, M., Craven, L., Crisp, M., Delgado, A., Demissew, S., Doyle, J. J., Grether, R., Harris, S., Herendeen, P. S., Hern├índez, H. M., Hirsch, A. M., Jobson, R., Klitgaard, B. B., Labat, J. N., Lock, J. M., MacKinder, B., Pfeil, B., Simpson, B. B., Smith, G. F., Sousa, M., Timberlake, J., van der Maesen, J. G., Van Wyk, A. E., Vorster, P., Willis, C. K., Wieringa, J. J., & Wojciechowski, M. F. (2005). Acacia: the case against moving the type to Australia. Taxon. 54:513-519.
  • Luckow, M. A., Fortunato, R. H., Sede, S., & Livshultz, T. (2005). The phylogenetic affinities of two mysterious monotypic mimosoids from southern South America. Systematic Botany. 30:585-602.
  • Luckow, M. A. (2002). Anatomical features of the leaves in the Dichrostachys Group (Leguminosae: Mimosoideae) and their utility for phylogenetic studies. Systematic Botany. 27:29-40.