Luke’s research focuses on the ecology, evolution, and conservation of plants. He is interested in understanding how types of global change, like habitat loss and climate change, will impact the genetic diversity of plant species and consequently influence their ability to survive and adapt to these changes. He uses a combination of field-based observational and experimental studies to investigate the processes that influence genetic diversity and how genetic diversity in turn impacts plant growth and survival. He received his PhD from Tulane University in New Orleans in 2017, focusing on the impact of genetic diversity on the growth and survival of the palm species Oenocarpus bataua and how pollen and seed dispersal interact to influence genetic diversity in this species. He also worked closely with local communities in Ecuador to conduct biodiversity surveys in forest fragments and to implement local conservation actions like capacity building and environmental education.
As a La Kretz postdoc, he will be working with the California endemic oak Valley oak (Quercus lobata) to determine how future changes in climate may impact the viability and growth of Valley oak populations, how current levels of genetic diversity may allow this species to adapt to climate change, and how we can improve the conservation of this species by incorporating genomic information into habitat restoration and management plans.