Shaw’s Agave

In collaboration with the National Park Services (NPS), we determined the origin and the genetic diversity of Shaw’s agave (Agave shawii shawii) at southern California natural preserve. This endangered subspecies only grows along the coastlines of California and northwestern Mexico and have suffered habitat loss and natural erosion. To recover agave’s local natural population, the NPS transplanted young plants from an evolutionarily unknown origin in the early 1970s. Since genetic diversity promotes resilience to sudden environmental challenges, robust agave genomes could sustain evolutionary selective pressure more effectively. Microbes supply plants with nutrients, and transplanting may compromise the delicate balance between the plant and its microbiome. We sequenced agave’s DNA barcoding markers and related microbial community, assembling phylogenetic maps within and between three US and two Mexican populations. We chemically characterized soil and quantified the enzymatic activity and genetic diversity of agave’s soil microbes using 16S rRNA sequencing.

This research was taught in our Summer 2019 Immersion Session and the published manuscript in Ecology and Evolution Journal featuring our high school program participant.


Jeanne Vu

Collaborator: Keith Lombardo, Ph.D.

National Park Service – Cabrillo National Monument

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Irish Strawberry

Were Carl Linnaeus’s taste buds functional? In the 1700s, Linnaeus, the “father of taxonomy”, named the Irish Strawberry as Arbutus unedo meaning, “eat only one”, implying that this fruit is not palate-pleasing. We disagree: this project aims to redeem the Irish Strawberry as tasty, nutrient-rich fruit through chemical analyses. By barcoding three DNA markers and performing phylogenetic analysis, we spotlight Irish Strawberry as the favorite Boz lab fruit on the “Tree of Life”.


Christine Stewart

The Boz Lab’s Favorite Power Snack

Even better than coffee at boosting joy and productivity in the lab


  • One slice of gluten free toast
  • 10 grams of almond butter
  • As many Irish Strawberries as you can fit 

*For more information about this project please contact:

Research Immersion Timeline: Summer 2019 Session – Shaw’s Agave

  • Summer 2019

    Field Sampling

    Sampling Agave shawii shawii tissue and soil extraction from Cabrillo National Monument.

  • DNA Extraction

    DNA extraction of plant tissue to determine phylogeny and biodiversity of samples from different sites.

  • Poster Presentations

    Final poster presentation session and award ceremony.  “Barcoding genes rbcL and matK reveal Shaw’s Agave genetic diversity while Biolog EcoPlates quantify variation in microbial substrate utilization within Pt. Loma Cabrillo National Monument” presented by first cohort participants Alexa Villa, Maizy Rogers, and Sora Haagensen.