Michael Mayer, PhD

Michael Mayer
Phone: (619) 260-4081
Fax: 619-260-6804
Office: Shiley Ctr for Science & Techn 434

Professor, Biology

  • PhD, Washington State University, Botany (1993)
  • MA, Humboldt State University, Biology
  • BA, Humboldt State University, Biology
  • Postdoctoral researcher, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Pullman, Washington

Michael Mayer, PhD, came to USD in 1994 and teaches general biological topics and more specialized courses in botany and evolutionary biology. He conducts research in plant systematics, which is essentially the study of plant diversity. It involves deciphering the evolutionary relationships among plants, and then using these patterns to infer the processes by which plants evolve, speciate, and produce new lineages. Mayer has conducted several projects involving plants of the southern California landscape, and maintains collaborations with colleagues at San Diego State University and the San Diego Natural History Museum.

Scholarly Work

The Mayer lab is currently wrapping up an investigation of possible hybrid speciation involving a group of the cholla cactus species of the local Anza-Borrego desert. The lab also has ongoing projects tackling the evolution and biogeography of a large group of wildflowers of the mustard family native to much of the New World. Broader aspects of this work involve collaborations with scientists at institutions in Missouri and Ontario, Canada, but the components involving smaller groups of Californian species are undertaken on campus with the help of USD students. To address these research questions, Mayer and his students generate and analyze data from sources that range from morphological to molecular, with a current emphasis on DNA fingerprinting and sequence approaches.

Areas of Interest

Mayer currently teaches introductory lecture and laboratory courses in biology, including introduction to genetics, evolution, and ecology, and biology of organisms laboratory. At the upper division level he teaches evolution, molecular methods in evolutionary biology, and his specialty, plant systematics. He considers his research at USD to be a valuable extension of his teaching endeavors, and over the years has worked with many undergraduate collaborators on a variety of projects dealing with the evolution and relationships of flowering plant species.