Jessica Budke

Jessica Budke

I was born in Youngstown, Ohio and grew up in rural Indiana. When I was a teenager, my family packed into our car and drove across the middle of the United States on a memorable vacation to St. Louis, Missouri. We went up in the Gateway Arch, took in a baseball game, and visited the Missouri Botanical Gardens. As we explored the garden grounds, I was amazed by the plant diversity flourishing around me. I had never seen plants with so many different leaf shapes, vibrant colors, and aromatic flowers. There were enormous floating water lilies, cactuses with swollen water-filled stems, and a myriad of other plants that I had not experienced in person before. Many of the displays highlighted the work of scientists who studied the ecology and evolution of these fascinating organisms. As we walked past the research buildings, I couldn’t help but press my nose to the window to see if I could catch a peek of those researchers at work.

After that summer, I wanted to become a botanist. My mom, who was trained as a nurse, was both skeptical and supportive of my botanical dreams. Being a volunteer at the Cincinnati Zoo, she suggested I give botany a test run and encouraged me to apply for an internship at the Zoo. As a high school student, I spent the next summer at the Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife where I worked with Bernadette Plair and Dr. Valerie Pence studying the cryopreservation of meristematic tissues to create novel “seeds” for tropical plants that could be stored long-term in the frozen garden. These women were fabulous mentors who generously shared their expertise and passion for plant biology. It was this experience that made me feel like a scientist and, needless to say, I was hooked on botany!

I continued to follow my botanical passions over the next few years, ultimately deciding to pursue an undergraduate degree in Botany at Miami University in Ohio. While at Miami, I joined Dr. Jim Hickey’s laboratory group studying fern morphology and taxonomy. As part of my undergraduate research project, I went on my first botanical collecting trips, where we explored the rivers of Tennessee hunting for elusive quillworts. While I was an undergraduate, the world-renowned bryologist Dr. Howard Crum passed away. His loss to the field stimulated discussion in our fern lab members about the fact that there are not enough researchers studying bryophytes. Shortly thereafter, I started noticing mosses everywhere: in the sidewalk cracks, on tree branches, and in the drip zones of air conditioners. As I looked closer, I became fascinated by their diverse morphologies and wanted to explore them more deeply.

I went on to get my Master’s Degree and PhD at the University of Connecticut, where I studied bryophyte development and evolution under the guidance of Dr. Bernard Goffinet and Dr. Cynthia Jones. After digging back into the literature, I dove into a project exploring the moss calyptra, which is a cap of maternal gametophyte tissue that covers the sporophyte apex during early development. My research demonstrated that the calyptra of Funaria hygrometrica (cord moss) is covered by a thick, waxy cuticle that forms early during development and provides protection to the immature sporophyte apex.

I am now an Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Herbarium Director at the University of Tennessee – Knoxville. One of my favorite aspects of my job is training the next generation of scientists. I enjoy teaching them new skills and watching them grow their expertise. When I think about my scientific journey, it has been driven by pursuing my passions, recognizing opportunities, and being supported by fabulous mentors who have helped me be successful.

Selected publications (*undergraduate student collaborator)

2022    Budke JM1, Patel NR1, GoFlag Consortium, Wienhold MD, Bruggeman-Nannenga MA (1 = co-first authors). Exploring systematic relationships and morphological evolution in the moss genus Fissidens using molecular data generated from herbarium specimens. Journal of Systematics and Evolution

2022    Lewis RA, Budke JM. Bryophyte specimen organization and storage systems: A comparative assessment of staff practices and user preferences. The Bryologist 125: 222-247.

2021    Whitaker KR*, Budke JM. Moss sporophyte transpiration rates are higher when calyptrae are removed. Evansia 38: 100-108.

2020    Bainard JD, Newmaster SG, Budke JM. Genome size and endopolyploidy evolution across the moss phylogeny. Annals of Botany 125: 543-555. (Editor’s Choice – Bryophyte Highlight)

2019    Budke JM. The moss calyptra: A maternal structure influencing offspring development. The Bryologist 122: 471-491. (Featured on the cover: Volume 122, Issue 3.)

2018    Budke JM, Bernard EC, Gray DJ, Huttunen S, Piechulla B, Trigiano RN. Introduction to the Special Issue on Bryophytes. Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences 37:102-112.

2016    Budke JM, Goffinet B. Comparative cuticle development reveals taller sporophytes are covered by thicker calyptra cuticles in mosses. Frontiers in Plant Science 7: 832.

2016a  Busta L, Budke JM, Jetter R. The moss Funaria hygrometrica has cuticular wax similar to vascular plants, with distinct composition on leafy gametophyte, calyptra and sporophyte capsule surfaces. Annals of Botany 118: 511-522.

2013    Budke JM, Goffinet B, Jones CS. Dehydration protection provided by a maternal cuticle improves offspring fitness in the moss Funaria hygrometrica. Annals of Botany 111: 781-789.

2012    Wynne MA*, Budke JM. Examining the ability of calyptrae to produce protonema in Funaria hygrometrica. Evansia 29: 61-64.

2012    Budke JM, Goffinet B, Jones CS. The cuticle on the gametophyte calyptra matures before the sporophyte cuticle in the moss Funaria hygrometrica (Funariaceae). American Journal of Botany 99: 14-22. (Winner of the 2013 Grady L. Webster Publication Award.)

2012    Liu Y, Budke JM, Goffinet B. Phylogenetic inference rejects sporophyte based classification of the Funariaceae (Bryophyta): rapid radiation suggests rampant homoplasy in sporophyte evolution. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 62: 130-145.

2011    Budke JM, Goffinet B, Jones CS. A hundred-year-old question: is the moss calyptra covered by a cuticle? A case study of Funaria hygrometrica. Annals of Botany 107: 1259-1277.