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Shannon D. Fehlberg

Dorrance Family Foundation Conservation Biologist

Shannon Fehlberg profile picture - Research and Conservation staff at the Desert Botanicals Garden

Ph.D., University of Colorado, 2006


Phone: 480.481.8143


  • Evolution, distribution and population genetics of rare plants
  • Biogeography and phylogeography of plants in the southwestern deserts
  • Determinants of genetic and species diversity in plants
  • Hybridization and polyploidy


The interdisciplinary field of conservation biology aims to provide the knowledge and tools necessary for the long-term preservation of biodiversity. Studies of population genetics (or the organization of genetic variation within and among individuals and populations) are one important source of information for conservation biology. My research focuses on the study of population genetic variation in rare plants. Knowledge of this genetic variation can provide insight into the survival, reproduction, and taxonomy of rare plants, and can be combined with other sources of data to form more effective conservation strategies. In addition, genetic studies of rare plants can be placed into a broader evolutionary context, and we can learn more about how rare species compare to widespread congeners, how species are formed, and how historical events, such as climate change, geographic barriers, and geology shape the distribution of plant diversity across the landscape. Within this context, I am currently working with colleagues on genetic studies of hybridization, polyploidy and ecological differentiation in western Phlox; historical and biogeographic processes that affect patterns of diversification in brittlebush (Encelia); conservation genetics, ecology, and systematics of the federally endangered Huachuca water umbel (Lilaeopsis); distribution, conservation genetics, and systematics of the federally endangered Arizona hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus); molecular scatology and plant DNA barcoding for the identification of plants in the Pronghorn diet; evolutionary processes and systematics of rare thistles (Cirsium) from the southwestern United States; and clonal diversity in the California Desert Thorn (Lycium).


Fehlberg, S.D., M.C. Ty, and C.J. Ferguson. 2014. Reexamination of a putative diploid hybrid taxon using genetic evidence: The distinctiveness of Phlox pilosa subsp. deamii (Polemoniaceae). International Journal of Plant Sciences 175:781-793.

Fehlberg, S.D., J.M. Allen, and K. Church. 2013. A novel method of genomic DNA extraction for Cactaceae. Applications in Plant Sciences 1: 1200013.

Tew, J.M., S.L. Lance, K.L. Jones, and S.D. Fehlberg. 2012. Microsatellite development for an endangered riparian inhabitant, Lilaeopsis schaffneriana subsp. recurva (Apiaceae). American Journal of Botany Primer Notes & Protocols in the Plant Sciences 99: e164-166.

Fehlberg, S.D. and C.J. Ferguson. 2012. Intraspecific cytotypic variation and complicated genetic structure in the Phlox amabilis-Pwoodhousei (Polemoniaceae) complex. American Journal of Botany 99: 865-874.

Fehlberg, S.D. and C.J. Ferguson. 2012. Intraspecific cytotype variation and conservation: An example from Phlox (Polemoniaceae). Calochortiana 1: 189-195.

Fehlberg, S.D. and T.A. Ranker. 2009. Evolutionary history and phylogeography of Encelia farinosa (Asteraceae) from the Sonoran, Mojave, and Peninsular Deserts. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 50: 326-335.

Lehnert, M., M. Kessler, A.N. Schmidt-Lebuhn, S.A. Klimas, S.D. Fehlberg, and T.A. Ranker. 2009. Phylogeny of the fern genus Melpomene (Polypodiaceae) inferred from morphology and chloroplast DNA analysis. Systematic Botany 34: 1-11.

Fehlberg, S.D., K.A. Ford, M.C. Ungerer, and C.J. Ferguson. 2008. Development, characterization and transferability of microsatellite markers for the plant genus Phlox (Polemoniaceae). Molecular Ecology Resources 8: 116–118.

Fehlberg, S.D. and T.A. Ranker. 2007. Phylogeny and biogeography of Encelia (Asteraceae) in the Sonoran and Peninsular Deserts based on multiple DNA sequences. Systematic Botany 32: 692-699.


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