Jenna Ekwealor

Jenna Ekwealor

PhD Candidate

University of California, Berkeley


In January 2021 I’ll be joining the Smithsonian Institution Data Science Lab as a Biodiversity Genomics Postdoctoral Fellow. I am fascinated by the very small: those organisms that are easily overlooked by macrobes like ourselves. I am also excited by extremophiles: those that can survive and thrive in conditions thought to be difficult for life itself. These interests come together in studying mosses. These small plants have found a way to only truly ‘live’ when conditions are right (that is, when enough water is present), and dry out and go quiescent when water is absent. For desert mosses that is most of the time! Yet, almost miraculously, dryland mosses are able to quickly begin to grow and thrive again, while recovering from damage that accumulated while they were desiccated. I find this process fascinating and I am interested in thinking about the evolutionary (both micro and macro) implications of this way of life.


Extreme female-biased sex ratios

Comparing genotypic and phenotypic sex ratios in Syntrichia caninervis, which has one of the most extreme female-biased sex ratio of any plant

The 3D Moss Project

An NSF Dimensions of Biodiversity Project; population genetics & phylogenetics of Syntrichia

The combined effects of UV and desiccation on dryland mosses of the genus Syntrichia

Transcriptomics & metabolomics of combined desiccation and UV stresses in two species

The photosynthetic effects of reduced UV on desert moss Syntrichia caninervis

Year-long UV reduction field experiment on Syntrichia caninervis in the Mojave Desert

Vascular plant spatial phylogenetics in the Mojave National Preserve

In collaboration with non-profit Blueprint Earth, an assessment of the phylogenetic diversity of a unique region of the Mojave Desert

Recent Publications

Life under quartz: Hypolithic mosses in the Mojave Desert

Several species of dryland cyanobacteria are known to occur as hypoliths under semi-translucent rocks. In the Mojave Desert, these …

Multiple factors influence population sex ratios in the Mojave Desert moss Syntrichia caninervis

PREMISE OF RESEARCH: Natural populations of many mosses appear highly female-biased based on the presence of reproductive structures. …


Recent & Upcoming Talks

The effects of natural sunlight and UV radiation on photosynthesis in the Mojave Desert moss, Syntrichia caninervis

The photosynthetic effects of a year-long UV-reduction experiment on natural populations of Syntrichia caninervis.

The photosynthetic effects of the Mojave Desert sun on a biological soil crust moss

The effects of a year-long UV-reduction experiment on key components of photosynthesis in natural populations of Syntrichia caninervis.

UV tolerance in Mojave Desert mosses

The photosynthetic and transcriptomic effects of a year-long UV-reduction experiment on natural populations of Syntrichia caninervis.

Recent Posts

NICAR 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana

A scientist attends a data journalism conference to learn science communication from the pros.

Fieldwork-wildlife conflicts

Or, how desert woodrats tried to sabotage my dissertation.