Associate Dean and Botany Professor, Dr. Adjoa Ahedor, has achieved what many college academics only dream, having academic research published. Dr. Ahedor has achieved these feat multiple times prior to her most recent work, but there is something special she says about this latest round of publications. It is the work she is most proud of for a variety of reasons. It could be that one project is complete after twelve years of work, or it could be that her other work all started with four students in her General Botany class. One thing is for sure, after multiple years of research completed in her off-hours, and entirely non-compensated, Dr. Ahedor has finally had this latest round of work published, two papers in the Flora of North America Volume 17, and one in the Oklahoma Native Plant Record. Each of these projects showcases Dr. Ahedor’s dedication to teaching, research, and the field of Botany.
The Flora of North America
Her most comprehensive research to date, Dr. Ahedor’s contribution to Flora of North America is nothing short of a marathon in perseverance and research. “At one point, I wasn’t even sure it was going to get published,” said Ahedor. For twelve years, Dr. has worked on her research for the Flora of North America, a research project comprised of over a hundred specialists from across the United States, Canada, and Europe. The work is extensive and ongoing as the Flora of North America is a thirty-volume project tasked with cataloging and researching over 952 species of flora native to North America north of Mexico, some of which are simply synonyms or mislabeled.
“One person would find and name something on this continent, and another person would find the same plant on another continent and name it differently. Many of these plants were discovered in the 1700s, so some of the species were eliminated as duplications or synonyms,” Ahedor said.
To date, only twenty-one volumes have been published, non-sequentially, with the possibility that some will go unpublished for a long time.
Ahedor’s research was focused on two plant genera, Genus Bacopa and Genus Mecardonia, both classified as wetland indicator species, but more commonly looked at as weeds. She was tasked with researching the fifteen originally known species of Bacopa and five species of Mercardonia native to North America and look to ensure no named duplication existed. As her research concluded, Dr. Ahedor was able to reclassify the fifteen species of Bacopa into seven, and the five species of Mercadonia to two, with one comprising three different varieties.
“These plants give us an insight into prehistoric times, what was here before us,” said Ahedor. “Unfortunately, many plants species are endangered and going extinct, often before anyone has even had the opportunity to classify them. Some are lost and gone forever.”
Two species of Bacopa and one species of Mecardonia can be found in Oklahoma and surrounding states.
Ahedor is one of three individuals working on this Flora of North America Volume 17 project from Oklahoma, joining Wayne Elisens, a co-editor for this volume and a retired professor at the University of Oklahoma, and Tulsa Union High School teacher Jay Walker. Many of the fifty-three specialists working on Volume 17 of the Flora of North America researched only one genus, with Ahedor researching two.
In total, this is Ahedor’s third publication on Mercardonia, and her second on Bacopa, and is by far the edition she is most proud of. When asked if she would consider herself the expert on either of these species, her response, “Definitely.”
The Oklahoma Native Plant Record
Dr. Ahedor’s other published research of December 2018 (but released in 2019) is something very unique. When most individuals think of research, they think of prominent universities, graduate assistants, and teams of researchers. Ahedor’s contribution to Oklahoma Native Plant Record is different. This research began as a project by four students in two of her General Botany classes. What began as a simple project measuring water released into the atmosphere by one of Oklahoma’s most notorious invasive evergreens, the Eastern Redcedar, quickly took on a whole new level after a Botanical Society of America conference in 2017.
It was at this conference that their research caught the eye of the Journal of the Oklahoma Native Plant Society, where they offered to publish their research, Comparative Transpiration Studies on the Invasive Eastern Redcedar (Juniperus virginiana L.) and Adjacent Woody Trees.
Over the semesters, Ahedor’s students tracked the water released by various trees, namely the Eastern Redcedar, a native but invasive conifer that is changing the landscape of Oklahoma. Ahedor and her students sought to compare the redcedar to other adjacent woody trees in terms of water transpired.
For two years, even after the students had left to enter the workforce or transfer on to pursue other degrees, Ahedor was tasked with compiling the data, organizing and completing the research.
“The redcedar is changing the landscape of our native grasslands in Oklahoma, and there are various ecological implications,” mentioned Ahedor.
Research such as this is uncommon at the community college level Ahedor said, especially as a result of an introductory-level class. To Ahedor’s knowledge, none of the students who began this work in 2017 have a plan to pursue a career in botany, which makes this all the more special.