Megan Ruffley

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH: Megan Ruffley | University of Idaho | Biological Sciences

Professional Preparation:

Miami University of Ohio                               Botany                                                 B.S., 2015

                                                                        Bioinformatics                                     Minor, 2015


PhD Student, Bioinformatics and Computation Biology, University of Idaho               August 2015 – present

University of Idaho IBEST Director Graduate Research Fellowship                              2015 – 2017

Research Experiences for Undergraduates, Missouri Botanical Garden                          Summer 2014

Undergraduate Summer Scholar, Miami University                                                       Summer 2013

Willard Sherman Turrell Herbarium, Miami University                                                2011 – 2014


Research Interests:

I am fundamentally interested in the evolutionary and ecological processes that drive speciation and thus biodiversity. To explore this interest, I am currently working on the disjunct species of the Pacific Northwest (PNW) temperate rainforest. The inland and coastal PNW forests were forced apart with the uprising of the Cascades and are currently separated by 300 km of desert in eastern Washington. There are two hypotheses that could explain the biogeographic history of the disjunct taxa, either populations diverged when the Cascades peaked, ~5mya, or the inland populations are a result of dispersal from the coast after glacial retreat, ~15,000ya. The taxa that are the result of ancient vicariance provide opportunities to look at taxa that harbor cryptic diversity, i.e. potential cryptic species. We have data for only a couple plants as of now, but my goal is to sample as much of the ecosystem as possible to include bryophytes, lycophytes, ferns, gymnosperms, and angiosperms to understand how these different populations have responded to either ancient vicariance or recent dispersal. I am interested in whether or not there is phylogenetic or ecological signal between taxa that harbor cryptic diversity. This project is meant to understand and identify broad patterns of speciation for an entire ecosystem, as well as the driving ecological and adaptive forces, and it also allows me to investigate seed free vascular plants, such as Selaginella, Isoetes, Blechnum, Polystichum, etc., with modern genomic tools such as reduced representation sequencing (e.g. ddRADseq) that has yet to be extensively explored in these lineages.


Publication Products:

Ruffley, M., Hickey, R.J. (2016) Delimitation of Three South American Isoetes species; Isoetes stellata, Isoetes pustulata, Isoetes abbottii. American Fern Journal. In prep.


Ruffley, M., Jimenez, I. (2016) The effects of sampling effort on the mean of range size distributions in the Andes and Amazon. Journal of Ecology and Biogeography. In prep.


Synergistic Activities:

Teaching – I plan to distribute a predictive framework to identify cryptic biodiversity by co-teaching a 5-day workshop at the University of Idaho in the summers of 2017/2018 for students and faculty that want to develop skills in phylogeographic analysis using high-throughput data. I will train undergraduate students to extract DNA from Herbarium and silica dried specimens and new graduate students to prepare RADseq libraries for NGS.

Herbarium Mentoring – I worked at a Herbarium for 3 years as an undergraduate and was trained in mounting, databasing, imaging and filing. I led student tours and trained new workers in the above techniques. I will also train hired undergraduate herbarium student workers at the Stillinger Herbarium here in Idaho to processes specimens collected in the Pacific Northwest.

Field Work – As an undergraduate, I participated in numerous plant collection expeditions, in and outside of the US. I learned how to acquire proper permits for collection and transport said collections back into the US as well as providing material to the local botanical agencies in the region of collection. I also learned field identification and specimen collecting techniques.

Research Products:


College of Science Research Exposition, University of Idaho, Moscow, Id.      October 2015

            *Outstanding Graduate Research Award

Scanning Electron Microscopy Symposium, Miami University, Oh                  May 2015

Emerging Researchers National Conference in STEM, Washington, DC.                      February 2015

            *1st Place Undergraduate Oral Presentation

Research Experience for Undergraduates Symposium, MBG, Mo                                  July 2014

Systematics Symposium, MBG, Mo                                                                  October 2014


Honors and Awards:

Stillinger Expediton Grant 2016

Delzie Demaree Travel Award Recipient 2015

Redhawk Excellence Scholarship 2011-2015

William E. Wilson Award for Botany 2015

Emerging Researchers Travel Award 2015

Choose Ohio First Bioinformatics Scholarship 2013, 2014, 2015

Kimberly L. Ingersoll Scholarship for Botany 2014

Arthur & Anna Evans Scholarship for Botany 2013

Roth Scholarship for Botany 2012


Collaborators and Affiliations:


Dr. Anahi Espindola     University of Idaho

Dr. Bryan Carstens       The Ohio State University

Megan Smith                The Ohio State University


Graduate Advisors

PhD co-advisor                        Dr. David Tank, University of Idaho

PhD co-advisor                        Dr. Jack Sullivan, ibest Director, University of Idaho


Undergraduate Advisors

Mycology                    Dr. Michael Vincent, Miami University

Plant Systematics         Dr. Jim Hickey, Miami University