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Department of Biological Science

at Florida State University

Biological Science Faculty Member

Dr. Austin R. Mast

  • Office: 4065 King Life Sciences
  • Office: (850) 645-1500
  • Lab: King Life Sciences
  • Lab: (850) 645-1499
  • Fax: (850) 645-8447
  • Mail code: 4295
  • E-mail:
Dr. Austin R. Mast

Research and Professional Interests:

My research program involves topics within the broadly defined area of biodiversity study. I am particularly interested in (1) the interplay of ecology and evolution that determines the form and function of plant life on Earth and (2) the use of biodiversity research specimens and digital information about them to bring that interplay into sharper focus. A few examples:

  • Macadamias and their relatives in the southern hemisphere plant family Proteaceae include 3 of the 10 largest flowering plant genera in Australia (Grevillea, Hakea, and Banksia). With colleagues in Australia, my lab is inferring a time-calibrated phylogeny for the group with which we are addressing hypotheses related to its biogeography and the evolution of ecologically relevant traits (e.g., those involved in pollination, dispersal, and phosphorus homeostasis).
  • Beaksedges (the genus Rhynchospora in the family Cyperaceae) have the greatest number of taxa (49 species and varieties) endemic to the southeastern North American Coastal Plain of any plant genus, and it reaches similar levels of richness within the other two American centers of subtropical/tropical grasslands and savanna (the Guiana Shield and the Brazilian Shield). With colleagues at FSU, the Smithsonian, and the New York Botanical Garden, my lab is developing new phylogenomic tools to infer the phylogeny of the genus to address hypotheses related to the historical relationships between the biotas of the three American centers of tropical/subtropical grassland/savanna. The anchored phylogenomics tools in development are useful for resolving relationships at both shallow and deep levels across the flowering plants.
  • iDigBio, NSF's National Resource for the Digitization of Biodiversity Research Collections, is a joint project between University of Florida and Florida State University. iDigBio is engaging the collections community in the digitization (e.g., databasing, imaging, georeferencing) of the roughly 1 billion specimens held in US biodiversity research collections and deployment of the data online. I sit on the iDigBio executive and steering committees and chair two working groups related to public participation in digitization of biodiversity specimens. Broadening participation in digitization via meaningful opportunities (e.g., co-created citizen science projects) is an area of active research in my lab and includes the development of Biospex and the Worldwide Digitization for Biocollections (WeDigBio) Event (October 22–25 in 2015; check out my plenary at the 2015 Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections Conference that provides context for WeDigBio).  Also, check out the Libraries of Life augmented reality cards that will work with a soon-to-be released Apple iOS app.

In addition to those activities, I serve as Director of FSU's Robert K. Godfrey Herbarium, an Associate Editor of the journal Systematic Biology, a Steering Committee Member of the citizen science website Notes from Nature, and State Representative for the Southeast Regional Network of Expertise and Collections Thematic Collections Network.

I especially enjoy working with students and herbarium staff on projects focused on the biota of the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida Panhandle. Students in my lab have studied such things as pollination, changes in range extent with climate change, invasive species, and the evolution of floral development.

Selected Publications:

Mast, A., P. M. Olde, R. O. Makinson, E. Jones, A. Kubes, E. Miller, P. H. Weston. 2015. Paraphyly changes understanding of timing and tempo of diversification in subtribe Hakeinae (Proteaceae), a giant Australian plant radiation. American Journal of Botany, in press.

Thiele, K., P. Weston, A. Mast. 2015. Paraphyly, modern systematics and the transfer of Dryandra into Banksia (Proteaceae): a response to George. Australian Systematic Botany, in press.

Buddenhagen, C. E., W. W. Thomas, A. R. Mast. 2015. A First Look at Diversification of Beaksedges (Tribe Rhynchosporeae; Cyperaceae) in Habitat, Pollination, and Photosynthetic Features. Botanical Review, in press.

Ellwood, E., G. Nelson, H. L. Bart, Jr., M. H. Doosey, D. Jue, J. Mann, N. Rios, A. Mast. 2015. Mapping Life—Quality Assessment of Novice vs. Expert Georeferencers. Citizen Science: Theory and Practice, in press. 

Matsunaga, A., A. Mast, J. A. B. Fortes. 2015. Workforce-efficient Consensus in Crowdsourced Transcription of Biocollections Information. Future Generation Computer Systems, in press. doi:10.1016/j.future.2015.07.004

Ellwood, E. R., B. Dunckel, P. Flemons, R. Guralnick, G. Nelson, G. Newman, S. Newman, D. Paul, G. Riccardi, N. Rios, K. C. Seltmann, A. R. Mast. 2015. Accelerating Digitization of Biodiversity Research Specimens through Online Public Participation. BioScience, 65(4), 386–396. doi:10.1093/biosci/biv005 

Nelson, G., Sweeney, P., Wallace, L. E., Rabeler, R. K., Allard, D., Brown, H., Carter, R. J., Denslow, M. W., Ellwood, E. R., Germain-Aubrey, C. C., Gilbert, E., Gillespie, E., Goertzen, L. R., Legler, B., Marchant, D. B., Marisco, T. D., Morris, A. B., Murrell, Z., Nazaire, M., Neefus, C., Oberreiter, S., Paul, D., Ruhfel, B. R., Sasek, T., Shaw, J., Soltis, P. S., Watson, K., Weeks, A., Mast, A. R. 2015. Digitization workflows for flat sheets and packets of plants, algae, and fungi. Applications in Plant Sciences 3(9):1500065.  doi:

Deans, A. R., Lewis, S. E., Huala, E., Anzaldo, S. S., Ashburner, M., Balhoff, J. P., Blackburn, D. C., Blake, J. A., Burleigh, J. G., Chanet, B., Cooper, L. D., Courtot, M., Csosz, S., Cui, H., Dahdul, W., Das, S., Dececchi, T. A., Dettai, A., Diogo, R., Druzinsky, R. E., Dumontier, M., Franz, N. M., Friedrich, F., Gkoutos, G. V., Haendel, M., Harmon, L. J., Hayamizu, T. F., He, Y., Hines, H. M., Ibrahim, N., Jackson, L. M., Jaiswal, P., James-Zorn, C., Kohler, S., Lecointre, G., Lapp, H., Lawrence, C. J., Le Novere, N., Lundberg, J. G., Macklin, J., Mast, A. R., Midford, P. E., Miko, I., Mungall, C. J., Oellrich, A., Osumi-Sutherland, D., Parkinson, H., Ramirez, M. J., 25 additional authors, Mabee, P. M. 2015. Finding our way through phenotypes. PLoS Biology, 13(1), 9. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1002033

Uhen, M., A. Barnosky, B. Bills, J. Blois, M. Carrasco, M. Carrano, G. Erickson, J. Eronen, M. Fortelius, R. Graham, E. Grimm, M. O'Leary, A. Mast, W. Piel, D. Polly. 2013. From card catalogs to computers: Databases in vertebrate paleontology. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 33:13-28. DOI:10.1080/02724634.2012.716114

Nelson, G., D. Paul, G. Riccardi, and A. R. Mast. 2012. Five task clusters that enable efficient and effective digitizations of biological collections. ZooKeys 209: 19-45. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.209.3135

Mast, A. R., E. F. Milton, E. H. Jones, R. M. Barker, W. R. Barker and P. H. Weston. 2012. A time-calibrated phylogeny of the woody Australian genus Hakea (Proteaceae) supports multiple origins of insect-pollination among bird-pollinated ancestors. American Journal of Botany 99: 472-487. doi: 10.3732/ajb.1100420

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