Discover Life on Earth: Genetics & Systematics

What Does It Mean?

  • Genetics: the science of genes, heredity, and variation in living organisms.
  • Systematics: the study of relationships among living things through time.
  • Molecular Systematics: the analysis of hereditary molecular differences, mainly in DNA sequences, to gain information on an organism's evolutionary relationships.


Research Highlights

Plant Origins

Angiosperms are amazingly diverse, with tens of thousands of living species. They occupy every habitat on Earth except the highest mountaintops, the deepest oceans and some polar regions. To understand the evolutionary history and the tremendous biodiversity of angiosperms, Distinguished Research Professor of Molecular Systematics and Evolutionary Genetics Pamela Soltis, and Distinguished Research Professor Doug Soltis, are performing DNA sequencing on flowering plants with their global team of research associates and students. Their research is uncovering the molecular basis for evolution and conservation of plants that range from small, obscure species to ones of global importance for food, medicine, wood products and natural habitats.


Image Galleries & Other Resources

Cowrie Genetic Database Project

This project has been established to rigorously examine the phylogenetic relationships within this diverse group of marine snails using a variety of DNA molecular markers.

Floral Genome Project

Darwin referred to the sudden appearance of flowering plants in the fossil record as the "abominable mystery." Scientists today are still looking for clues to solve this mystery and are piecing together the big picture of flowering plant relationships.

Genetic Resources Repository

See how Museum genetic samples are stored in a liquid nitrogen freezer.


Student working in DNA lab on floral genome sequencing

Post-Doctoral Associate Andre Chanderbali works with DNA in the molecular lab.

Museum Genetic Collections & Labs


Science Stories

Read more about genetics and systematics research at the Museum: