Barbara Whitlock

Assoc. Professor

(305) 284-3512
Locator Code:


Research Interests

The primary goal of my research is to understand the origins of plant diversity. I use phylogenetic analyses of DNA sequence data in combination with information from morphology, anatomy, and ecology to understand the timing and direction of changes in floral and vegetative traits, geographic distribution, and diversification rates. My students and I have studied many different groups of flowering plants, from both tropical and temperate regions.  However, I have a longstanding interest in chocolate, Theobroma cacao, and its relatives in the Malavaeae.  My research has always had a strong field component. I have studied plants in Cameroon, Australia, many locations in South and Central America, and more recently in the western US and Florida.

Teaching Interests

I encourage students at all levels to explore and gain an appreciation of the diversity of life and the evolutionary processes underlying it. At UM, I have taught Evolution and Biodiversity (BIL 160), Evolution and Disease (BIL 220), Evolution (BIL 520/620), and Phylogenetics (BIL 521/621). I also regularly teach one credit seminars (BIL 374) on fun topics in botany and biodiversity.

I am currently the Director of Undergraduate Studies for Biology and the co-advisor for Beta Beta Beta, the biological sciences honors society.


2002Post Doctoral Fellow, Darwin University of Massachusetts, Amherst
2000Ph.D. Biology Harvard University
1994M.S. Biology University of Missouri, St. Louis
1990B.S. Botany and French University of Wisconsin, Madison

Professional Experience

2018 - Director of Undergraduate Studies in Biology, University of Miami
2009 - Associate Professor of Biology, University of Miami
2003 - 2009Assistant Professor of Biology, University of Miami
2003 - Faculty Associate, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens

Honors & Acknowledgements

National Science Foundation. Diversification of Polyspora (Theaceae) in Sri Lanka, 2016-2020, principal investigator
National Science Foundation. Developmental morphology, biogeography, and systematics of Gentianopsis (fringed gentians, Gentianaceae), 2007-2011, principal investigator
Certificate of Excellence, College of Arts and Sciences, University of Miami, 2008
Certificate of Excellence, College of Arts and Sciences, University of Miami, 2008
University of Miami Digital Library Fellowship. Digitizing the Swingle Plant Anatomy Reference Collection, 2008-2009, principal investigator
National Science Foundation. Diversification and biogeography of the Lasiopetaleae (Malvaceae) and the history of the southwestern Australian flora, 2004-2007, principal investigator
Outstanding Biology Educator, Department of Biology, University of Miami, 2003

LIST OF SPECIALTIES: Evolutionary Biology | Conservation and Restoration Biology | Tropical Biology


Gunathilake, L. A. A. H., and B. A. Whitlock. "Seed coat micromorphology of Gordonia sensu lato (including Polyspora and Laplacea; Theaceae)" Brittonia 68-78 (2015).

Groff, P. A., A. M. Hale, and B. A. Whitlock. Systematic Botany 220-228 (2015).

Richardson, J. E., B. A. Whitlock, A. Meerow, S. Madriñán. "The age of chocolate: a biogeographic history of Theobroma and Malvaceae." Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 1203 (2015).

Wilkins, C. F., and B. A. Whitlock. "Seringia revised to include Keraudrenia (Lasiopetaleae: Malvaceae s.l.)" Australian Systematic Botany 265-32528 (2015).