Urbanization poses one of the greatest threats to biodiversity on Earth and is altering the world’s landscapes at an unprecedented rate. While we have begun to grasp how urban conditions affect species’ population ecology and community structure, it remains unclear how city life influences species interactions as well as the evolution of urban populations. In this talk, Sophie Breitbart will discuss new findings about how urbanization shapes plant-pollinator interactions and evolution in common milkweed, a native plant of high conservation value.
About the Speaker
Sophie Breitbart is an urban ecologist and evolutionary biologist investigating how urbanization influences the Monarch butterfly’s favorite botanical partner: common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). After completing her B.A. in Biology at Wesleyan University in 2016, she worked as an environmental consultant assessing lake water quality and designing engineering plan sets for dam removals.
She began her Ph.D. in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto in 2018. Her current research focuses on a garden she planted which contains 1,000 milkweed plants grown from seeds collected from urban, suburban, and rural areas. She has observed the milkweed over the past four years to answer this question: do the plants exhibit observable differences that suggest that urban and rural plants are genetically different from one another? Next, she will use genomic tools to further investigate how city life influences common milkweed on a molecular level. In her free time, Sophie likes to instruct coding workshops and plan her next Zabar’s order.