Michael S Barker
Associate Professor
Associate Professor, BIO5 Institute
Primary Department
Department Affiliations
(520) 621-2213
Research Interest
Michael Barker is an evolutionary biologist studying the origins of biological diversity, particularly how abrupt genomic changes such as polyploidy, chromosomal change, and hybridization have contributed to the evolution of plant diversity. Biologists have long been fascinated by these processes because they create unique opportunities for the evolution of ecological and phenotypic novelty with the potential for relatively rapid speciation. Although assessing the importance of these abrupt changes has historically been a difficult task, advances in genomics and bioinformatics have created new opportunities for addressing these longstanding questions. By integrating new computational and evolutionary genomic tools with traditional approaches such as molecular evolution, phylogenetics, mathematical modeling, and experimental work Barker's lab currently studies 1.) the contributions of recent and ancient polyploidy to eukaryotic diversity; 2.) the evolution of chromosome number and genome organization; and 3.) the impact of hybridization on speciation and novelty.


Barker, M. S., & Wolf, P. G. (2010). Unfurling fern biology in the genomics age. BioScience, 60(3), 177-185.


Twenty-first century technology is addressing many of the questions posed by 20th-century biology. Although the new approaches, especially those involving genomic data and bioinformatic tools, were first applied to model organisms, they are now stretching across the tree of life. Here, we review some recent revelations in the ferns. We first examine how DNA sequence data have contributed to our understanding of fern phylogeny. We then address evolution of the fern plastid genome, including reports of high levels of RNA editing. Recent studies are also shedding light on the evolution of fern nuclear genomes. Initial analyses of genomic data suggest that despite their very high chromosome numbers homosporous ferns may have experienced relatively few rounds of genome duplication. Genomic data are enabling researchers to examine speciation rates and the mechanisms underlying the formation of new fern species. We also describe genetic tools that have been used to study gene function and development in ferns. Recent findings in fern biology are providing insights that are not only pertinent to this major component of the land flora but can also help to provide an improved evolutionary context for research on flowering plants. © 2010 by American Institute of Biological Sciences. All rights reserved.

Li, Z., Baniaga, A. E., Sessa, E. B., Scascitelli, M., Graham, S. W., Rieseberg, L. H., & Barker, M. S. (2015). Early genome duplications in conifers and other seed plants. Science advances, 1, e1501084.
Shaw, S. W., Barker, M. S., & Hickey, R. J. (2004). New records for Puerto Rican pteridophytes. Fern Gazette, 17(2), 97-99.


During a 2001-2002 collecting trip to Puerto Rico, eleven pteridophytes were collected that are Puerto Rican município records. Of the 11 collections, one is a Puerto Rican endemic Selaginella. For each specimen, we provide full collection data and previously known Puerto Rican distributions for the species.

Hickey, R. J., Barker, M. S., & Ponce, M. (2003). An Adiantopsis hybrid from Northeastern Argentina and vicinity. American Fern Journal, 93(1), 42-44.
Barker, M. S., Dlugosch, K. M., Reddy, C. C., Amyotte, S. N., & Rieseberg, L. H. (2009). SCARF: Maximizing next-generation EST assemblies for evolutionary and population genomic analyses. Bioinformatics, 25(4), 535-536.

PMID: 19129211;Abstract:

Scaffolded and Corrected Assembly of Roche 454 (SCARF) is a next-generation sequence assembly tool for evolutionary genomics that is designed especially for assembling 454 EST sequences against high-quality reference sequences from related species. The program was created to knit together 454 contigs that do not assemble during traditional de novo assembly, using a reference sequence library to orient the 454 sequences. © The Author 2009. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.