Ashley Morris

Ashley Morris

Professor, Biology; Curator of the Ives Herbarium (FUGR)

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Dr. Ashley Morris joined the Furman faculty in Fall 2019. She was trained as a plant population geneticist and systematist, using molecular tools to answer ecological and evolutionary questions in native plant systems. Her focus has often been on rare plant species or unique plant habitats. She spent eight years as a faculty member in Biology at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), where her research emphasis was on rare plant species associated with cedar glade habitats. Prior to MTSU, Dr. Morris was a faculty member at the University of South Alabama (USA) for four and a half years, where she worked with students on a variety of projects on organisms ranging from trees to carnivorous plants to dolphins. She holds a B.S. in Natural Resources with a minor in Biology from Sewanee-The University of the South, an M.S. in Botany from the University of Tennessee Knoxville (UTK), and a Ph.D. in Botany from the University of Florida (UF). Dr. Morris is an active member of the Association of Southeastern Biologists (ASB), where she has served in the elected positions of Member-at-Large, Vice President, and President. She is also a member of the Southern Appalachian Botanical Society (SABS), the American Society for Plant Taxonomists (ASPT), and the Botanical Society of America (BSA).


  • Ph.D., University of Florida
  • M.S., University of Tennessee
  • B.S., University of the South-Sewanee


Dr. Morris studies plant population structure and reproductive ecology in both herbaceous and woody plants. One area of focus is species that exhibit both sexual reproduction by seed and asexual reproduction by sprouting (or other forms of clonal growth). Most plant species exhibit mixed reproductive strategies, but few species are prolific clonal spreaders. Dr. Morris uses molecular tools to document the extent of clonality in both rare and widespread species to understand bigger picture questions about how plants respond to changes across the landscape. Another area of focus is conservation genetics. Most projects in the Morris Lab focus on rare species or imperiled habitats and involve the integration of both field and molecular data collection. Specific examples of recent work include developing novel nuclear microsatellite loci to document clonal structure in the federally endangered bunched arrowhead (Sagittaria fasciculata; Alistmataceae) and the state threatened Oconee bells (Shortia galacifolia and S. brevistyla; Diapensiaceae). We also continue to work with colleagues in Tennessee to evaluate genetic variation within and among populations of the federally endangered leafy prairie clover (Dalea foliosa; Fabaceae).


Listed in reverse chronological order; *Graduate student authors; **Undergraduate student authors

  • Monfils AK, Krimmel ER, Linton DL, Marsico TD, Morris AB, Ruhfel BR (2022) Collections education: The extended specimen and data acumen. BioScience, 72: 177-188.
  • Hays K, Havran JC, Heard MJ, Morris AB, Ovueraye L (2021) From then to now: Diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Association of Southeastern Biologists. Frontiers in Sociology, 6: 755072.
  • Morris AB, Baskauf CJ, Diggs JT, Egan AN, Lincicome D, Mandel JR, Visger CJ (2021) Conserving the flora of limestone cedar glade communities of the Southeastern United States. In: Imperiled: The Encyclopedia of Conservation (eds. DellaSala DA, Goldstein MI). Elsevier, pp. 336-346.
  • Oppmann E, Morris AB (2021) Assessing the clonal nature of running glade clover (Trifolium calcaricum J.L. Collins & T.F. Wieboldt; Fabaceae). Castanea, 86:117-124.
  • Morris AB, Trostel K. Scalf C, Burleyson A, Call G, Albrecht MA (2021) Genetic variation and structure in natural and reintroduced populations of the endangered legume, Pyne's ground plum (Astragalus bibullatus). Conservation Genetics, 22: 443-454.
  • Powell C, Krakowiak A, Fuller R, Rylander E, Gillespie E, Krosnick S, Ruhfel B, Morris AB, Shaw J (2021) Estimating herbarium specimen digitization rates: accounting for human experience. Applications in Plant Sciences, 9: e11415.
  • Marsico TD, Krimmel ER, Carter JR, Gillespie EL, Lowe PD, McCauley R, Morris AB, Nelson G, Smith M, Soteropoulos DL, Monfils AK (2020) Small herbaria contribute unique biogeographic records to county, locality, and temporal scales. American Journal of Botany, 107: 1577-1587.
  • Rumble L, Taylor G, Grinath JB, Morris AB (2020) Measuring spatial and temporal shifts in forest structure and composition in high elevation beech forests in response to beech bark disease in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Forest Ecology and Management, 461: 117954.
  • Marsico TD, Krimmel ER, Carter JR, Gillespie EL, Lowe PD, McCauley R, Morris AB, Nelson G, Smith M, Soteropoulos DL, Monfils AK (2020) Small herbaria contribute unique biogeographic records to county, locality, and temporal scales. American Journal of Botany, accepted for publication on 8 July 2020.*Denotes graduate student author
  • Rumble L*, Taylor G, Grinath JB, Morris AB (2020) Measuring spatial and temporal shifts in forest structure and composition in high elevation beech forests in response to beech bark disease in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Forest Ecology and Management, 461: April, 117954.
  • Morris AB, Shaw J (2018) Markers in time and space: a review of the last decade of plant phylogeographic approaches. Molecular Ecology, 27, 2317-2333.
  • Yost JM, Sweeney PW, Gilbert E, Nelson G, Guralnick R, Gallinat AS, Ellwood ER, Rossington N, Willis CG, Blum SD, Walls RL, Haston EM, Denslow MW, Zohner CM, Morris AB, Stucky BJ, Carter R, Baxter DG, Bolmgren K, Denny EG, Dean E, Davis CC, Mishler BD, Soltis PS, Mazer SJ (2018) Digitization protocol for scoring reproductive phenology from herbarium specimens of seed plants. Applications in Plant Sciences, 6, e1022.
  • Evans J, Morris AB (2016) Isolated coastal populations of Tilia americana var. caroliniana exhibit long-term persistence through vegetative growth. American Journal of Botany, 103, 1687-1693.
  • Fan D, Hu W, Li B, Morris AB, Zheng M, Soltis DE, Soltis PS, Zhang Z (2016) Idiosyncratic responses of evergreen broad-leaved forest constituents in China to the late Quaternary climate changes. Scientific Reports, 6, 31044.
  • Morris AB, Scalf C**, Burleyson A**, Johnson LT**, Trostel K (2016) Development and characterization of microsatellite primers in the federally endangered Astragalus bibullatus (Fabaceae). Applications in Plant Sciences, 4, 1500126.
  • Howell JS, Morris AB (2016) Niche partitioning in sympatric Sarracenia species at Splinter Hill Bog Preserve, Baldwin County, Alabama. Carnivorous Plant Newsletter, 45, 12-18.
  • Nelson G, Sweeney P, Wallace LE, Rabeler RK, Allard D, Brown H, Carter RJ, Denslow MW, Ellwood ER, Germain-Aubrey CC, Gilbert E, Gillespie E, Goertzen LR, Legler B, Marchant DB, Marsico TD, Morris AB, Murrell Z, Nazaire M, Neefus C, Oberreiter S, Paul D, Ruhfel BR, Sasek T, Shaw J, Soltis PS, Watson K, Weeks A, Mast AR (2015) Digitization workflows for flat sheets and packets of plants, algae, and fungi. Applications in Plant Sciences, 3, 1500065.
  • Shaw J, Shafer HL**, Leonard OR, Kovach MJ, Schorr M, Morris AB (2014) Chloroplast DNA sequence utility for the lowest phylogenetic and phylogeographic inferences in angiosperms: The tortoise and the hare IV. American Journal of Botany, 101, 1987-2004.
  • Hieb EE, Nelson DH, Morris AB (2014) Oviductal eggs from road-kill turtles provide a novel source of DNA for population studies of the Alabama red-bellied turtle. Conservation Genetics Resources, 6, 837-839.
  • Hieb EE, Nelson DH, Morris AB (2014) Genetic monitoring reveals loss of microsatellite diversity in a breeding population of the endangered Alabama red-bellied turtle. Endangered Species Research, 23, 253-261.
  • Morris AB, Millsaps NK**, Mason KQ**, Howell JS, Speer JH (2014) Mature beech (Fagus grandifolia; Fagaceae) are persistently clonal in coves and beech gaps in the Great Smoky Mountains. American Journal of Botany, 101, 1-8.
  • Jackson TG, Nelson DH, Morris AB (2012) Phylogenetic relationships in the North American genus Pseudemys (Emydidae) inferred from two mitochondrial genes. Southeastern Naturalist, 11, 297-310.
  • Hieb EE, Jackson TG Nelson DH, Morris AB (2011) Characterization of eight polymorphic microsatellite loci for the endangered Alabama red-bellied turtle (Pseudemys alabamensis; Emydidae). Conservation Genetics Resources, 3, 781-783.
  • Morris AB, Graham CH, Soltis DE, Soltis PS (2010) Reassessment of phylogeographical structure in an eastern North American tree using Monmonier’s algorithm and ecological niche modelling. Journal of Biogeography, 37, 1657-1667.
  • Newell DL**, Morris AB. (2010) Clonal structure of wild populations and origins of horticultural stocks of Illicium parviflorum (Illiciaceae). American Journal of Botany, 97, 1-5.
  • Judd WS, Abbott JR, Morris AB (2008) Illicium guajaibonense, elevated to subspecies rank and compared with the subspecies of Illicium cubense (Illiciaceae). Journal of Botanical Research Institute of Texas, 2, 799-806.
  • Morris AB, Ickert-Bond SM, Brunson DB, Soltis DE, Soltis PS (2008) Phylogeographical structure and temporal complexity in American sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua; Altingiaceae). Molecular Ecology, 17, 3889-3900.
  • Sherman TD, Boone E, Morris AB, Woodard A, Goldman E, Martin DL, Gautier C, O'Brien JJ (2008) Investigations of internal interactions between the parasitic barnacle Loxothylacus texanus (Rhizocephala: Sacculinidae) and its host Callinectes sapidus (Brachyura: Portunidae) using PCR techniques. Journal of Crustacean Biology, 28, 220-227.
  • Morris AB, Bell CD, Clayton JW, Judd WS, Soltis DE, Soltis PS (2007) Phylogeny and divergence time estimation in Illicium with implications for New World biogeography. Systematic Botany, 32, 236-249.
  • Soltis DE, Morris AB, McLachlan JS, Manos PS, Soltis PS (2006) Comparative phylogeography of unglaciated eastern North America. Molecular Ecology, 15, 4261-4293.
  • Guerrero A, Judd WS, Morris AB (2004) A new species of Illicium subsection Parviflora from the Massif de la Hotte, Haiti. Brittonia, 56, 346-352.
  • Morris AB, Small RL, Cruzan MB (2004) Variation in frequency of clonal reproduction among populations of Fagus grandifolia Ehrh. in response to disturbance. Castanea, 69, 38-51.
  • Scheen AC, Brochmann C, Brysting AK, Elven R, Morris AB, Soltis DE, Soltis PS, Albert VA (2004) Northern hemisphere biogeography of Cerastium (Caryophyllaceae): Insights from phylogenetic analysis of noncoding plastid nucleotide sequences. American Journal of Botany, 91, 943-952.
  • Morris AB, Baucom RS, Cruzan MB (2002) Stratified analysis of the soil seed bank in the cedar glade endemic Astragalus bibullatus: evidence for historical changes in genetic structure. American Journal of Botany, 89, 29-36.
  • Morris AB, Small RL, Cruzan MB (2002) Investigating the relationship between Cryptococcus fagisuga and Fagus grandifolia in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Southeastern Naturalist, 1, 415-424.