Shannon D. Fehlberg | Desert Botanical Garden


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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 and population genetics and genomics of rare plants and their relatives
  • Distribution and historical biogeography of plants in the southwestern deserts
  • Factors affecting genetic and species diversity in plants
  • Polyploidy and hybridization


I am interested in both patterns and processes in the evolution of plants. I work collaboratively at the interface of population genetics and phylogenomics using a variety of genetic and analytical approaches to investigate diversification of plants. My research program focuses on:

  • Genetic variation and structure in populations of rare plants in order to gain a greater understanding of evolutionary processes and inform conservation action.
  • Genetic relationships of closely related species, especially as influenced by polyploidy, hybridization, and ecology.
  • Environmental, geographical, geological and historical processes that affect patterns of diversification and distribution in plant populations, in turn contributing to our understanding of future plant species distributions under global climate change.


Zumwalde, B.A., J.K. Dahir, A.B. Shaw, A. Willis, and S.D. Fehlberg. 2019. Characterization and development of microsatellite markers for Echinomastus johnsonii (Cactaceae) and congeneric taxa. Applications in Plant Sciences 7: e11302

Fehlberg, S.D. and K.M. Fehlberg. 2017. Spatial genetic structure in brittlebush (Encelia farinosa, Asteraceae) in the southwestern deserts of North America: a comparison of nuclear and chloroplast DNA sequences. Plant Systematics and Evolution 303:1367-1382. Download Paper

Fehlberg, S.D. 2017. Knowledge of genetic diversity informs conservation of a rare, clonal wetland plant Lilaeopsis schaffneriana var. recurva (Apiaceae). Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas 11: 499-510. Download Paper

Long, R.W., S.E. Bush, K.C. Grady, D.S. Smith, D.L. Potts, C.M. D’Antonio, T.L. Dudley, S.D. Fehlberg, J.F. Gaskin, E.P. Glenn, K.R. Hultine. 2017. Can local adaptation explain varying patterns of herbivory tolerance in a recently introduced woody plant in North America? Conservation Physiology 5:1-13. link to full text

Chansler, M., C.J. Ferguson, S.D. Fehlberg, and L.A. Prather. 2016. The role of polyploidy in shaping morphological diversity in natural populations of Phlox amabilis (Polemoniaceae). American Journal of Botany 103: 1546-1558. link to full text

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 Science 175: 781-793. link

Fehlberg, S.D., J.M. Allen, and K. Church. 2013. A novel method of genomic DNA extraction for Cactaceae. Applications in Plant Sciences 1: e1200013. link to full text

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. link to full text

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

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

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. link

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. link

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. link

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. link

Fehlberg (Kuchel), S.D. and L.P. Bruederle. 2000. Allozyme data support a Eurasian origin for Carex viridula ssp. viridula var. viridula Michx. (Cyperaceae). Madroño 47: 147-158. link

Technical Reports

Fehlberg, S.D. 2019. Assessing genetic diversity in acuña cactus (Echinomastus erectocentrus var. acunensis) and its close relatives using microsatellites and DNA sequences. Report prepared for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Tucson, AZ.

Williamson, P., P. Berresford, S.D. Fehlberg, and M. Terry. 2019. Black lace cactus (Echinocereus reichenbachii var. albertii) genetics and landowner conservation outreach project. Report prepared for Texas Parks and Wildlife, Austin, TX.

Fehlberg, S.D. 2017. Development of genetic resources for the study of acuña cactus (Echinomastus erectocentrus var. acunensis) and its close relatives. Report prepared for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Tucson, AZ.

Fehlberg, S.D. 2015. Population genetic study of the Cochise pincushion cactus (Coryphantha robbinsorum) in Arizona. Report prepared for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Tucson, AZ.

Fehlberg, S.D. 2015. Genetic similarities and differences among monitored Tamarix populations along the Virgin River. Report prepared for Desert Landscape Conservation Cooperative and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Fehlberg, S.D. 2014. Improved genetic resources for the study of Huachuca Water Umbel (Lilaeopsis schaffneriana var. recurva). Report prepared for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Phoenix, Arizona.

Fehlberg, S.D. 2013. Distinguishing Arizona hedgehog cactus from close relatives using genetic information. Report prepared for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Phoenix, Arizona.

Fehlberg, S.D. 2012. Population genetic study of the Arizona hedgehog cactus in support of multiple Recovery Plan objectives. Report prepared for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Phoenix, Arizona.

Fehlberg, S.D. 2012. Assessing genetic distinctiveness of Huachuca Water Umbel (Lilaeopsis schaffneriana subsp. recurva) on Fort Huachuca, Arizona and other regional sites. Report prepared for the Environmental and Natural Resource Division, Directorate of Public Works, U.S. Army Garrison, Fort Huachuca, Arizona.


The Garden is currently deinstalling Chihuly in the Desert and there may be temporary closures to some areas of the Garden. We appreciate your patience and understanding.

The Garden will be closed to the public July 4-11. We look forward to seeing you again on July 12.