Carol Goodwillie

Title: Associate Professor
Area of Study: Plant evolutionary genetics and ecology
Phone: 252-328-4225
Fax: 252-328-4178
Office: Howell S405
Address: Department of Biology
East Carolina University
Greenville, NC 27858

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Research Interests:

The Evolution of Plant Mating Systems. Our work explores the extraordinary diversity of plant mating systems, the selective factors that shape that variation, and the role that mating systems play in limiting gene flow between species.

Hybridization and Cleistogamy in Triodanis. Two subspecies of Triodanis perfoliata (Venus’ looking glass), a weedy annual plant, provide an opportunity to address questions concerning the evolution of cleistogamy and its role in determining patterns of gene flow. Cleistogamy refers to the production of modified flowers that do not open and therefore produce seeds solely by self-fertilization. Two subspecies that co-occur throughout our region differ in their allocation to cleistogamous (closed) and chasmogamous (open) flowers. Through field, greenhouse and genetic marker approaches, we are looking at the effects of allocation to each flower type on reproductive success and on the potential for hybridization.

Evolution of self-compatibility in Leptosiphon. I have a long-standing interest in the ecological and genetic factors that play a role in the evolution of self-fertilization from self-incompatibility – a genetic mechanism that allows a plant to recognize and reject its own pollen to promote cross-fertilization. Leptosiphon jepsonii, a California annual species, has an unusual and variable breeding system that provides us with a unique opportunity to study the breakdown of self-incompatibility. The flowers of most L. jepsonii plants are initially self-incompatible, becoming capable of selfing later in anthesis; other plants are self-compatible when flowers first open. The frequency of these different phenotypes ranges widely among populations, allowing us to explore how outcrossing rate, inbreeding depression, reproductive assurance and other parameters are correlated with variation in self-compatibility.

Long-term Ecological Studies of a Wetland Plant Community. Supported by NSF funding, this project was designed to involve undergraduate biology students in authentic ecological research at realistic spatial and temporal scales.

Experiment history and design. We are studying the long-term effects of nutrient addition and disturbance on a plant community at a site near the ECU campus. In nine years of study, we have observed significant decreases in diversity in fertilized and unmowed plots, and changes in the relative abundance of forbs, grasses and woody species.

Evolution in ecological time. We are developing tools to test for adaptive evolution and changes in population genetic structure in response to the experimental treatments. We are generating AFLP genetic markers and developing greenhouse cultivation methods for target plant species that are present throughout the long-term ecology plots, including Euthamia caroliniana (slender goldentop) and Packera tomentosus (woolly ragwort).


Goodwillie, C. and E. Stewart. In press. Cleistogamy and hybridization in Triodanis perfoliata (Campanulaceae). Rhodora

Weber, J. J. and C. Goodwillie. In press. Variation in floral longevity in the genus Leptosiphon: Mating system consequences. Plant Biology

Goodwillie, C. and C. L. Jolls. In press. Mating systems and floral biology of the herb layer: a survey of two communities and the state of our knowledge. In F. S. Gilliam and M. R. Roberts, The Herbaceous Layer in Forests of Eastern North America, 2nd edition. Oxford University Press, New York.

Winn, A. et al. 2011. Analysis of inbreeding depression in mixed-mating plants provides evidence for selective interference and stable mixed mating. Evolution 65:3339-3359.

Whitney et al. 2010. A role for nonadaptive processes in plant genome size evolution? Evolution 64: 2097-2109.

Goodwillie, C. et al. 2010. Correlated evolution of mating system and floral display traits in flowering plants and its implications for the distribution of mating system variation. New Phytologist 185: 311-321.

Eckert, C. G. et al. 2010. Plant mating systems in a changing world. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 25: 35-43.

Weber, J. J., Goodwillie, C. 2009. Evolution of the mating system in a partially self-incompatible species: reproductive assurance and pollen limitation in populations that differ in the timing of self-compatibility. International Journal of Plant Sciences 170: 885-893.

Stiller, J.W., et al. 2009. Are algal genes in nonphotosynthetic protists evidence of historical plastid endosymbioses? BMC Genomics 10: 484.

Goodwillie, C. 2008. Transient SI and the dynamics of self-incompatibility alleles: a simulation model and empirical test. Evolution 62:2105-2111.

Sargent, R. S., Goodwillie, C. Kalisz, S. and R. H. Ree. 2007. Phylogenetic evidence for a flower size and number trade-off. American Journal of Botany 94:2059-2062.

Weber, J. J. and C. Goodwillie. 2007. Timing of self-compatibility, flower longevity, and potential for male outcross success in Leptosiphon jepsonii (Polemoniaceae). American Journal of Botany 94:1338-1343.

Goodwillie, C. and W. R. Franch. 2006. An experimental study of the effects of nutrient addition and mowing on a ditched wetland plant community: results of the first year. Journal of the North Carolina Academy of Sciences 122(3): 106-117.

Goodwillie, C. and M. C. Knight. 2006. Inbreeding depression and mixed mating in Leptosiphon jepsonii: a comparison of three populations. Annals of Botany 98:351-360.

Goodwillie, C., C. Ritland and K. Ritland. 2006. Quantitative trait loci associated with mating system evolution in Leptosiphon (Polemoniaceae). Evolution 60:491-504.

Courses Taught:

BIOL 4800, 6220. Population Genetics

BIOL 2300. Principles of Genetics

BIOL 2250. Ecology

BIOL 3150. Plant Biology

BIOL 3230, 3231. Field Botany

BIOL 3550, 4550. Vegetation Sampling and Analysis

Laboratory Personnel

Current graduate student:



Emily Stewart
Masters student
"Hybridization and cleistogamy
in Triodanis perfoliata"

Graduates of the lab

Beth Chester, MS graduate
Ecologist, US Fish & Wildlife

Jennifer Weber, MS graduate
PhD, UC Irvine, currently a postdoc at Fordham University

Jennifer Ness, MS graduate
National Institute of Standards and Technology

Current undergraduate students:

Jonathan Caban

Hetal Patel

Josh Thigpen

Sandra Trybus


Missy Gillis