Associate Professor, The College of New Jersey
As a botanist and evolutionary biologist, I am interested in the evolutionary history of flowering plants. More specifically, my research program examines select groups of plants, such as honeysuckles, to contribute to the development of improved evolutionary classification systems and to elucidate evolutionary patterns of morphology and biogeography through the study of phylogeny. I reconstruct phylogenies, or branching diagrams similar to family trees, using genes and genomes. I use these phylogenies as a framework for exploration of the evolutionary past to not only document and describe present-day plant diversity, but also to shed light on the major evolutionary events that came to shape the world as we see it today.
Traveling from tropical to temperate forests, I have conducted field studies of figs and close relatives as well as viburnums to support my evolutionary studies of plant diversity. Currently, my work focuses on the honeysuckles (Lonicera, Caprifoliaceae), a group of ~160 species that grow in temperate and montane regions throughout the globe. While honeysuckles are commonly planted in gardens and landscapes and include well-known invasive species, honeysuckles also exhibit much variation in fusion. Across the diversity of honeysuckles, some species display leaves that fuse together across a stem, petals that fuse to form a tube, or adjacent fruits that fuse together to form a larger structure. We are using honeysuckles as a model system to understand the evolution of this phenomenon by tracing the evolutionary history of fused organs across the honeysuckle phylogeny and connecting changes in fusion to changes in genes thought to control fusion.
As a faculty member at a primarily undergraduate institution, I lead a team of undergraduate researchers who are my collaborators in all aspects of my research program. I develop and implement inquiry-based courses in student-centered classrooms, with a particular focus on designing modules to train undergraduates in data science. I have also led efforts to create outreach events for broad audiences, such as Tasting the Tree of Life, that help explain the importance of and our daily reliance on the diversity of life.
- Clement, W.L., K.L. Prudic, J.C. Oliver. 2018. Exploring how climate will impact plant-insect distributions and interactions using open data and informatics. Teaching Issues and Experiments in Ecology. 14. Experiment #1 [online].
- Clement, W.L.^, K.T. Elliott^, O. Cordova-Hoyos*, I. Distefano*, K. Kearns*, R. Kumar*, A. Leto*, J. Tumaliuan*, L. Franchetti, E. Kulesza*, N. Tineo*, P. Mendes, K. Roth, J.M. Osborn. 2018. Tasting the Tree of Life: Development of a Collaborative, Cross-campus, Science outreach Meal Event. Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education. 19(1; themed issue on “Science Communication”): doi:10.1128/jmbe.v19i1.1408. ^Indicates equal authorship
- Bruun-Lund, S., W.L. Clement, Finn Kjellberg, N. Rønsted. 2017. First plastid phylogenomic study reveals cyto-nuclear discordance suggesting repeated occurrence of introgressive hybridization associated with pollinator shifts in the evolutionary history of Ficus L. (Moraceae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 109: 93-104.
- Barish, S.*, M. Arakaki, E.J. Edwards, M.J. Donoghue, W.L. Clement. 2016. Characterization of 16 microsatellite markers for the Oreinotinus clade of Viburnum (Adoxaceae). Applications in Plant Sciences. 42(12): 1600103.
- Spriggs, E.L., W.L. Clement, P.W. Sweeney, S. Madriñán, E.J. Edwards, M.J. Donoghue. 2015. Temperate radiations and dying embers of a tropical past: the diversification of Viburnum. New Phytologist. Doi:10.1111/nph.13305.
- Clement, W.L., M. Arakaki, P.W. Sweeney, E.J. Edwards, M.J. Donoghue. 2014. A chloroplast tree for Viburnum (Adoxaceae) and its implications for phylogenetic classification and character evolution. American Journal of Botany. 101(6):1029-1049.