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Photo of Mason-Gamer, Roberta J.

Roberta J. Mason-Gamer, PhD

Professor and Alternate Associate Department Head

Biological Sciences


Building & Room:

1008 SELW


950 S. Halsted St.

Office Phone:

(312) 413-3542



As a plant systematist, I am interested in the evolutionary processes that lead to divergence among plants, and in the phylogenetic patterns that describe relationships among them. Within this broad area, I am especially interested in using molecular genetic techniques to study phylogenetic relationships among closely related species. At this level, taxa have begun to diverge, yet often still show evidence of past or ongoing gene exchange. Closely related taxa, therefore, may show a reticulate pattern of evolution, in which divergent branches on a phylogenetic tree have merged back together. Reticulate patterns may result from the maintenance of gene diversity from ancestral populations (incomplete lineage sorting) or from processes such as hybridization, allopolyploidy, or horizontal gene transfer. Obtaining evidence for reticulate evolution often requires detailed comparisons among multiple phylogenetic data sets, and this has led to my interest in the methodologies that underlie such comparisons.

Much of my current research involves the grass family, with a particular emphasis on the wheat tribe (Triticeae). Comparisons among diploid genera in this economically important group show strong evidence of gene exchange, even though the genera are currently intersterile. I am now starting to apply next generation sequence data to a broader, genome-wide assessment of phylogenetic conflict in the tribe. I also have a continuing interest in allopolyploidy in this group. I use molecular methods to address the relationships between allopolyploids and their related diploids, as well as the complicated relationships among the allopolyploid species.

Students in my lab apply phylogenetic methodology in a variety of projects. For more specific information about past and ongoing projects, visit my lab page and meet the members of the lab.

Selected Publications

(Complete list of publications on Google Scholar)

  1. McCarthy, D. M. and R. J. Mason-Gamer. Morphological variation in North American Tiliaand its value in species delineation. 2020. International Journal of Plant Sciences 181(2):175–195.
  2. Crouch, N. M. A. and R. J. Mason-Gamer. 2019. Identifying ecological drivers of interspecific variation in song complexity in songbirds (Passeriformes, Passeri). Journal of Avian Biology 50(3):e020202.
  3. White, D. M., M. B. Islam, and R. J. Mason-Gamer. 2019. Phylogenetic inference in section Erythroxyluminforms taxonomy, biogeography, and the domestication of coca (Erythroxylum , Erythroxylaceae). American Journal of Botany 106(1):154–165.
  4. Markova, M. and R. J. Mason-Gamer. 2017. Transcriptional activity of PIFand Pong-like transposable elements in Triticeae. BMC Evolutionary Biology 17:178.
  5. McCarthy, D. and R. J. Mason-Gamer. 2016. Chloroplast DNA-based phylogeography of Tilia americana. Systematic Botany 41:865–880.
  6. Markova, D. and R. J. Mason-Gamer. 2015. The role of vertical and horizontal transfer in the evolutionary dynamics of PIF-like transposable elements in Triticeae. PLoS ONE 10(9):e0137648.
  7. Mason-Gamer, R. J. 2013. Phylogeny of a genomically diverse group of Elymus (Poaceae) allopolyploids reveals multiple levels of reticulation. PLoS ONE 8:e78449.
  8. Jorgensen, M. C., P. Sierwald, and R. J. Mason-Gamer. 2013. A critical review of subspecies recognition through a literature survey of Polydesmida millipedes with a revision of the subspecies of Euryuridae. Zoologica Scripta 42:317–326.
  9. Naum, M., E. W. Brown, and R. J. Mason-Gamer. 2011. Is a robust phylogeny of the enterobacterial plant pathogens attainable? Cladistics 27:80–93.
  10. Mason-Gamer, R. J. 2007. Multiple homoplasious insertions and excisions of a Triticeae (Poaceae) DNA transposon: a phylogenetic perspective. BMC Evolutionary Biology 7:92.
  11. Mason-Gamer, R. J. 2005. The β-amylase genes of grasses and a phylogenetic analysis of the Triticeae (Poaceae). American Journal of Botany 92:1045–-1058.
  12. Mason-Gamer, R. J. 2004. Reticulate evolution, introgression, and intertribal gene capture in an allohexaploid grass. Systematic Biology 53:25–37.


MS, PhD, University of Connecticut
MS, Boston College
BS, Western New England College