Associate Professor Jennifer Tate staff profile picture

Contact details +6469517718

Associate Professor Jennifer Tate PhD, BSc, FLS

Associate Professor in Plant Systematics and Evolution

School of Fundamental Sciences

GGE Group Leader

School of Fundamental Sciences

Our research focuses on understanding the nature of plant speciation and diversification using a variety of approaches.  We use molecular phylogenetics to test ideas of species relationships, taxonomy, biogeography, and character evolution.  We also use morphological and molecular tools to understand different evolutionary processes affecting plant speciation, including hybridization and polyploidy (whole genome doubling) and plant mating systems.  A recurrent theme of our research is to assess and understand the repeatability of evolution and its effects on morphological and genomic level traits.


Contact details

  • Location: 5.09, SciD
    Campus: Turitea


  • Doctor of Philosophy - University of Texas Austin (2002)
  • Bachelor of Science - University of Illinois (1995)

Fellowships and Memberships

  • Member, The Linnean Society of London (Fellow) (2009)

Research Expertise

Research Interests

Our lab works broadly in the area of plant evolutionary biology. Below are brief descriptions of some of our current projects.

Genomic consequences of polyploidy in plants

Polyploidy, or whole genome doubling, has been a significant evolutionary force in flowering plant history. We are studying different aspects of polyploidy using native New Zealand plant groups as well as the model polyploid system of Tragopogon (Asteraceae). Our aims are to understand the formation of polyploids and the genomic consequences of polyploidization in different plant lineages. In particular, we are studying polyploid diversification in relation to genome downsizing in native New Zealand plant species (e.g., Asplenium, Azorella, Libertia). This project is funded by the Marsden Fund (2018-2020) and is in collaboration with Bill Lee (Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research), Heidi Meudt and Patrick Brownsey (Te Papa Tongarewa, The Museum of New Zealand), Dirk Albach (Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg), and Andrew Tanentzap (University of Cambridge).

Another major avenue of polyploidy research aims to address the potential conflict that arises in new polyploids between the duplicated nuclear genomes and the haploid maternally inherited organellar genomes (mitochondria and plastid). Successful interaction between the nuclear and cytoplasmic genomes is necessary to facilitate essential functions of growth and development (e.g., respiration and photosynthesis). This project was recently funded by the Marsden Fund (2019-2021) and is in collaboration with Murray Cox (Massey), Dan Sloan (Colorado State University), and Doug and Pam Soltis (University of Florida, Florida Museum of Natural History). We will soon be recruiting two PhD students to work with us on this project. 

Phylogenetic systematics of Malvaceae

Malvaceae is a large angiosperm family that includes economically important species such as cotton and Hibiscus. We are working on generic level phylogenies for different groups in tribe Malveae, which is the largest in subfamily Malvoideae, as well as tribe Hibisceae. Our focal genera are those from Australia and New Zealand (Asterotrichion, Gynatrix, Hoheria, Lawrencia, Plagianthus, and Hibiscus) and South America (Acaulimalva, Nototriche, and Tarasa). We are using molecular phylogenetic approaches to understand species relationships, biogeography, and character evolution within these groups, as well as using these phylogenetic frameworks to revise taxonomy when needed.

Evolution and conservation of native New Zealand flora

The New Zealand flora is incredibly diverse and unique with a high proportion of endemic species. Many of these species are endangered or threatened because of historical loss of native habitat. In collaboration with Vaughan Symonds (Massey) and Alastair Robertson (Massey), we are studying the population and conservation genetics of these native plant groups. Some of our focal genera include Dactylanthus(Mystropetalaceae), Fuchsia (Onagraceae), Korthalsella (Viscaceae), Myosotis (Boraginaceae), Selliera (Goodeniaceae), and Sophora (Fabaceae). Most of these projects have been conducted by MSc and PhD students.


Resource Development and Management

Area of Expertise

Field of research codes
Biological Sciences (060000): Epigenetics (incl. Genome Methylation and Epigenomics) (060404): Evolutionary Biology (060300): Genetics (060400): Host-Parasite Interactions (060307): Phylogeny and Comparative Analysis (060309): Plant Biology (060700): Plant Systematics and Taxonomy (060310)


Phylogenetic systematics


Genome evolution


Research Projects

Summary of Research Projects

Position Current Completed
Project Leader 3 12

Current Projects

Project Title: Getting the balance right: How do allopolyploids successfully integrate interspecific nuclear and cytoplasmic genomes?

Date Range: 2019 - 2023

Funding Body: Royal Society of New Zealand

Project Team:

Teaching and Supervision

Teaching Statement

120.101 (Biology of Plants)

120.303 (Plant Biodiversity)

Courses Coordinated

Summary of Doctoral Supervision

Position Current Completed
Main Supervisor 4 2
Co-supervisor 3 3

Current Doctoral Supervision

Main Supervisor of:

  • Usama Mukhtar - Doctor of Philosophy
    Genomic stability and cytonuclear interactions after allopolyploidy in Tragopogon.
  • Demet Tore - Doctor of Philosophy
    Plant speciation and floral evolution in Tragopogon (Asteraceae)
  • Weixuan Ning - Doctor of Philosophy
    Phylogenomic analysis of New Zealand polyploid Azorella (Apiaceae)
  • Sidra Hussain - Doctor of Philosophy
    Evolution of Cytonuclear Coordination in Tragopogon (Asteraceae) Allopolyploids

Co-supervisor of:

  • Ling Hu - Doctor of Philosophy
    Investigation of the diversity and taxonomy of ex situ collections of Rhododendron and their utility for conservation
  • Wenliang Xu - Doctor of Philosophy
    Screening a select group of New Zealand grown plants: the hunt for bioactive molecules.
  • Sofie Pearson - Doctor of Philosophy
    Detection of loci associated with water-soluble carbohydrate accumulation and environmental adaptation in white clover (Trifolium repens L.)

Completed Doctoral Supervision

Main Supervisor of:

  • 2020 - Oiwodu Ehoche - Doctor of Philosophy
    Assessing the Potential of Genomic Selection to Improve Yield and Persistence in White Clover
  • 2014 - Tina Sehrish - Doctor of Philosophy
    Polyploid Genome Evolution

Co-supervisor of:

  • 2019 - Kay Pilkington - Doctor of Philosophy
    The genetic architecture of the divaricate growth form: A QTL mapping approach in Sophora (Fabaceae)
  • 2017 - Jessica Prebble - Doctor of Philosophy
    Species delimitation and the population genetics of rare plants: A case study using the New Zealand native pygmy forget-me-not group (Myosotis; Boraginaceae)
  • 2014 - Amir Sultan - Doctor of Philosophy
    Systematics, Biology and Ecology of New Zealand's Pygmy Mistletoes (Korthalsella : Viscaceae)

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