Ruth Shaw
Phone Numbers
Office Address

1987 Upper Buford Circle
St. Paul, MN 55108
United States

Ruth G.


Ecology, Evolution and Behavior

We study evolutionary processes in plant populations in both nature and greenhouse, conducting research that bridges theory, empiricism and practical applications. Projects have addressed questions concerning rates of adaptive evolution in the wild, the evolution of species ranges, organismal responses to climate change, the consequences of fragmentation of prairie populations, the influence of spontaneous mutation on adaptation.

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Research statement

It has been known for about 40 years that natural populations harbor considerable genetic variability. However, understanding of the processes that generate and maintain genetic variation has been limited. Moreover, the evolutionary consequences of this variation has been understood mainly in general terms. To address these fundamental issues in evolutionary genetics, I employ quantitative genetic approaches in studies of natural and experimentally generated plant populations. Currently, my focus is on the evolutionary consequences of severe and abrupt framentation of prairie plant populations of Echinacea angustifolia. In the course of this research, I have participated in development of a new statistical approach for analysis of life history data to obtain estimates of fitness, fitness surfaces and population growth rates ( Beyond this, graduate students I have recently advised have assessed the potential of native plants to adapt to ongoing climate change, the evolutionary consequences of gene flow from a crop to its wild relatives, and evolutionary change in introduced species. In support of these and related projects, I have worked on statistical problems in quantitative genetics. This has led to development of Quercus, a collection of computer programs for analysis of quantitative genetic experiments. I actively participate in the University's Center for Community Genetics, a group of graduate students, postdocs and faculty with mutual interests in the interplay of ecology and genetics in the evolution of interacting species.

Selected publications

Kittelson,P.M., S. Wagenius, R. Nielsen, S. Qazi, M. Howe, G. Kiefer, R.G. Shaw. 2015. How functional traits, herbivory and genetic diversity interact in Echinacea: Implications for fragmented populations. Ecology.

Lau, J.A.,  R.G. Shaw, P.B. Reich, P. Tiffin. 2014. Indirect effects drive evolutionary responses to global change. New Phytologist 201 (1), 335-343.

Shaw, R. G. and F. H. Shaw. 2014. Quantitative genetic study of the adaptive process. Heredity 112: 13-20.

Geyer, C. J., Ridley, C. E., Latta, R. G., J. R. Etterson, and R. G. Shaw. 2013. Local adaptation and genetic effects on fitness: Calculations for exponential family models with random effects. Annals of Applied Statistics 7: 1778-1795.

Gomulkiewicz, R. and R. G. Shaw. 2013. Evolutionary rescue beyond the models. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B, in press.

Aguilée, R., F. H. Shaw, F. Rousset, R. G. Shaw and O. Ronce. 2013. How does pollen vs. seed dispersal affect niche evolution? Evolution DOI:10.1111/j.1558-5646.2012.01816.x

Shaw, R. G.and J. R. Etterson. 2012.  Tansley Review: Rapid climate change and the rate of adaptation: insight from experimental quantitative genetics.  New Phytologist 195:752–765. (Invited, refereed).

Stanton-Geddes, J., P. Tiffin, and R. G. Shaw. 2012. Role of climate and competitors in limiting fitness across range edges of an annual plant. Ecology 93:1604–1613.

Ridley, C. E., H. H. Hangelbroek, S. Wagenius, J. Stanton-Geddes and R. G. Shaw. 2011. The effect of plant inbreeding and stoichiometry on interactions with herbivores in nature:Echinacea angustifolia and its specialist aphid.  PLoS One 6(9): e24762. DOI:  10.1371/journal.pone.0024762.

Wagenius, S., H. H. Hangelbroek, C. E. Ridley, R. G. Shaw. 2010. Biparental inbreeding and inter-remnant mating in a perennial prairie plant: fitness consequences for progeny in their first eight years. Evolution 64:761-771.


Ph.D., Duke University, 1983