Jenna Ekwealor

Jenna Ekwealor

Postdoctoral Researcher

Smithsonian Institution

I’m a Biodiversity Genomics Postdoctoral Fellow at the Smithsonian Institution Data Science Lab. 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.



  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Eco-physiology
  • Botany
  • Data Science & Bioinformatics
  • Fine Arts


  • Ph.D. in Integrative Biology, 2020

    University of California, Berkeley

  • M.S. in Environmental Science, Biology Option, 2015

    California State University, Los Angeles

  • B.S. in Biology, Chemistry Minor, 2012

    Purdue University, Indianapolis

  • B.A. in Religious Studies, 2012

    Indiana University, Indianapolis


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

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

To dry perchance to live: insights from the genome of the desiccation-tolerant biocrust moss 𝙎𝙮𝙣𝙩𝙧𝙞𝙘𝙝𝙞𝙖 𝙘𝙖𝙣𝙞𝙣𝙚𝙧𝙫𝙞𝙨

With global climate change, water scarcity threatens whole agro/ecosystems. The desert moss Syntrichia caninervis, an extremophile, …

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 …


Recent & Upcoming Talks

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

Wonders of a dryland moss

I co-led virtual workshop exploring the dimensions of biodiversity in the dryland moss genus Syntrichia.

NICAR 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana

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