Shaw's Agave


About This Project

In collaboration with National Park Services, we are uncovering the genetic diversity of Shaw’s agave (Agave shawii shawii). This endangered subspecies only grows along the coastlines of California and northwestern Mexico and have suffered habitat loss caused by human activities and natural erosion. To recover agave’s local natural population, the NPS transplanted young plants from evolutionarily unknown origin and genetic diversity in the early 1970s. Since genetic diversity promotes resilience to sudden environmental challenges, robust agave genomes could sustain evolutionary selective pressure more effectively. Microbes supply plants with nutrients, and transplanting is a stressful event that compromises the delicate balance between the plant and its microbiome. Reconstituting the healthy microbial community that supports the plant takes time, and failure to do so can irreversibly compromise the agave’s fitness. 


We collected tissue samples from 36 individual agave and soil samples around Cabrillo National Monument and the Navy Base to determine Agave’s genetic diversity. Our research team has analyzed agave’s DNA sequences and related microbial community. We assembled phylogenetic maps, highlighting genetic relatedness within and between Shaw’s agave from Cabrillo National Monument (US), the San Diego Navy Base (US), the border crossing (US), Rosarito (MX), and Arroyo Hondo (MX).  We recently quantified the enzymatic activity and genetic diversity of agave’s soil microbes using 16S rRNA V4 region as our genetic marker.

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Sora Haagensen


Research Progress

Sampling Agave shawii shawii tissue and soil extraction from Cabrillo National Monument. 

DNA extraction of Agave shawii shawii plant tissue to determine phylogeny and biodiversity of samples from different sites.

Final poster presentation session and award ceremony.  "Barcoding genes rbcL and matK reveal Shaw's Agave genetic diversity while Biolog EcoPlates quantify variation in microbial substrate utilization within Pt. Loma Cabrillo National Monument" presented by first cohort participants Alexa Villa, Maizy Rogers, and Sora Haagensen.