FSU Biology - Directories - Faculty

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
  • Area: Ecology & Evolution
  • Lab: King Life Sciences
  • Lab: (850) 645-1499
  • Fax: (850) 645-8447
  • Mail code: 4295
  • E-mail: amast@bio.fsu.edu
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, (2) the use of biodiversity research specimens and digital information about them to bring that interplay into sharper focus, and (3) public engagement in the research to further science and STEM literacy goals.  Historically, I have focused my research on Macadamias and relatives (the plant family Proteaceae), Primroses and relatives (the plant family Primulaceae), and historical biogeography, but I'm keen to innovate wherever I see opportunities to expand our understanding of biodiversity.  This has led me deep into the areas of biodiversity informatics and citizen science in recent years, and I have NSF-funded grants in both of those areas.

Participation in iDigBio, NSF's National Resource for the Digitization of Biodiversity Research Collections, has been especially productive.  iDigBio is a joint project between University of Florida, Florida State University, and (as of 2021) Arizona State University that engages 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 am a co-PI on iDigBio and serve as Director of its Digitization, Workforce Development, and Citizen Science Domain. 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 Engagement for Digitizing Biocollections (WeDigBio) Event. Recently, I have been working with collaborators from FSU's School of Information and Department of Statistics to teach machines to recognize descriptions of biotic anomalies in specimen labels (e.g., "flowering earlier than I've ever seen before").  And I have been working with collaborators from the FSU Department of Art to produce a flexible protocol for capturing 3D models of organisms in the field at the time of collection using photogrammetry.  David Jennings (UF Florida Museum of Natural History) and I have enjoyed offering a popular strategic planning course for biodiversity collections once- or twice-a-year since 2017—announcements of new offerings are made on the iDigBio twitter feed and elsewhere. 

During the COVID-19 Pandemic, I led a large team to enhance data about the world's 90,000 historic specimens of horseshoe bats and relatives.

I also serve as Director of FSU's Robert K. Godfrey Herbarium, Director of the FSU College of Communication and Information's Institute for Digital Information and Scientific Communication (iDigInfo), and Board Chair (2022–3) of the Citizen Science Association.  

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 and phenology with climate change, invasive species, the evolution of floral development, the biogeography of microbiomes, the biogeography of lineages that reach their greatest diversity in the disjunct New World savannas, and the historical treatment of biological oddities by collectors.  I teach Field Botany in Fall semesters and Plants & Society in even-year Spring semesters.

The Florida Panhandle is a great place to be a field biologist—consider joining our lab or pointing your promising students our way.  Recent members of the lab include Chris Buddenhagen (Ph.D., 2016), Libby Ellwood (Postdoc, 2013–17), Katie Pearson (M.Sc., 2018), Mikayla Buckley (Honors B.Sc., 2020), Brendan Scherer (Ph.D., 2021), and Natasza Fontaine (M.Sc., 2021).  They are a fantastic group of scientists.

Finally, here are a few recent grants that further illustrate the kind of work in which I'm involved:

Nelson, R., Fortes, J., Soltis, P., Mast, A., Blackburn, D. (Sep 2021–Aug 2026). iDigBio: Sustaining the digitization, mobilization, accessibility, and use of biodiversity specimen data in U.S. museum and academic collections. Funded by National Science Foundation. Total award $19,995,068. 

Cardillo, M., Jordan, G., Weston, P., Sauquet, H., Mast, A. (Dec 2019–Dec 2022). Legacy of Gondwana: Evolutionary history and conservation of Grevilleoideae. Funded by Australian Research Council. (DP200102927). Total award AU$390,000. 

Nelson, R., Mast, A., Blackburn, D., Fortes, J., Soltis, P. (Aug 2016–Sep 2022). Digitization: iDigBio: Integrated Digitized Biocollections Phase 2. Funded by National Science Foundation (1547229). Total award $16,454,662.

Mast, A., Paul, D. (Jul 2020–Jun 2022). RAPID: Rapid Creation of a Data Product for the World's Specimens of Horseshoe Bats and Relatives, a Known Reservoir for Coronaviruses. Funded by National Science Foundation. (2033973). Total award $199,999. 

Mast, A., Riccardi, G. A. (Jul 2015–Jun 2020). ABI DEVELOPMENT: Notes From Nature: Advancing A Next Generation Citizen Science Platform For Biocollection Transcription. Funded by National Science Foundation. (1458550). Total award $336,938. 

Please note, in 2022 I discontinued maintenance of a separate lab website focused solely on activities in my lab in FSU's Department of Biological Science.  This was in part due to the recognition that most of that content describing major research themes could be shared on this page.  However, it was also due to the fact that I provide leadership and mentoring in several contexts in addition to the lab, and I already expend time curating content at the websites of those other organizations, including the herbarium, iDigInfo, and iDigBio.  Members of my lab in biology are typically active in some combination of those organizations, and those organizations' websites (linked above) should provide a relatively rich portrayal of the kinds of opportunities provided when working with me at a post-doc, graduate, or undergraduate level.

Selected Publications:

**Not exhaustive, just some recent stuff.**

Hardisty, A. R., Ellwood, E. R., Nelson, G., Zimkus, B., Buschbom, J., Addink, W., Rabeler, R. K., Bates, J., Bentley, A., Fortes, J. A. B., Hansen, S., Macklin, J. A., Mast, A., Miller, J. T., Monfils, A. K., Paul, D. L., Wallis, E., Webster, M. (2022). Digital Extended Specimens: Enabling an Extensible Network of Biodiversity Data Records as Integrated Digital Objects on the Internet. BioScience, biac060. https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biac060

Ridge, M., Blickhan, S., Ferriter, M., Prytz, Y. B., Brumfield, B., Brumfield, S., Burgher, D., Casey, J., Coleman, S., Cybulska, D., Goldman, M. H., Luther, K., Mast, A., White, N., Wilkins, B., Willcox, P. (2021). The Collective Wisdom Handbook: perspectives on crowdsourcing in cultural heritage. (Swindon, England: UK Arts and Humanities Research Council). 10.21428/a5d7554f.1b80974b

Flemming, A., Phillips, M., Shea, E. K., Bolton, A., Lincoln, C., Green, K., Mast, A., Cubeta, M. A. (2020). Using Digital Natural History Collections in K-12 STEM Education. Journal of Museum Education, 45, 450–461. https://doi.org/10.1080/10598650.2020.1833296 

Cai, L., Lemmon, E., Lemmon, A., Mast, A., Buddenhagen, C. E., Liu, L., Davis, C. C. (2020). The Perfect Storm: Gene Tree Estimation Error, Incomplete Lineage Sorting, and Ancient Gene Flow Explain the Most Recalcitrant Ancient Angiosperm Clade, Malpighiales. Systematic Biology, 70. https://doi.org/10.1093/sysbio/syaa083

Pearson, K., Mast, A. (2019). Mobilizing the biodiversity specimen collection community for effective outlier detection and documentation in the Anthropocene. American Journal of Botany, 106, 1052–8.  https://bsapubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/ajb2.1335

Mast, A., Ellwood, E. (2018). Scaling up public engagement in botanical research. American Journal of Botany, 105, 1–3. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajb2.1075

Ellwood, E. R., Kimberly, P., Guralnick, R., Flemons, P., Love, K., Ellis, S., Allen, J. M., Best, J. H., Carter, R., Chagnoux, S., Costello, R., Denslow, M. W., Dunckel, B. A., Ferriter, M. M., Gilbert, E. E., Goforth, C., Groom, Q., Krimmel, E. R., LaFrance, R., Martinec, L., Miller, A., Minnaert-Grote, J., Nash, T., Oboyski, P., Paul, D. L., Pearson, K. D., Pentcheff, N. D., Roberts, M. A., Seltzer, C. E., Stephens, R., Sweeney, P. W., von Konrat, M., Wall, A., Wetzer, R., Zimmerman, C., Mast, A. R. (2018). Worldwide Engagement for Digitizing Biocollections (WeDigBio)—The Biocollections Community's Citizen Science Space on the Calendar. BioScience 68: 112–124. doi:https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/bix143

Buddenhagen, C. E., W. W. Thomas, A. R. Mast. 2017. A First Look at Diversification of Beaksedges (Tribe Rhynchosporeae; Cyperaceae) in Habitat, Pollination, and Photosynthetic Features. Memoirs of the New York Botanical Garden 118. http://dx.doi.org/10.21135/893275341.002

Cardillo, M., Weston, P., Reynolds, Z., Olde, P., Mast, A. R., Lemmon, E. M., Lemmon, A., Bromham, L. 2017. The phylogeny and biogeography of Hakea (Proteaceae) reveals the role of biome shifts in a continental plant radiation. Evolution 71: 1928–1943. doi:10.1111/evo.13276

Lacey, E. A., Hammond, T. T., Walsh, R. E., Bell, K. C., Edwards, S. V., Ellwood, E. R., Guralnick, R., Ickert-Bond, S. M., Mast, A., McCormack, J. E., Monfils, A. K., Soltis, P. S., Soltis, D. E., Cook, J. A. 2017. Climate Change, Collections and the Classroom: Using Big Data to Tackle Big Problems. Evolution: Education and Outreach 10:2. https://doi.org/10.1186/s1205

Ellwood, E., Nelson, G., Bart, H. L., Jr., Doosey, M. H., Jue, D., Mann, J., Rios, N., Mast, A. 2016. Mapping Life—Quality Assessment of Novice vs. Expert Georeferencers. Citizen Science: Theory and Practice, 1(1), 23. doi:http://doi.org/10.5334/cstp.30

Matsunaga, A., Mast, A., Fortes, J. A. B. 2016. Workforce-efficient Consensus in Crowdsourced Transcription of Biocollections Information. Future Generation Computer Systems, 56, 526-536. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.future.2015.07.004

Mast, A., Olde, P. M., Makinson, R. O., Jones, E., Kubes, A., Miller, E., & Weston, P. H. 2015. Paraphyly changes understanding of timing and tempo of diversification in subtribe Hakeinae (Proteaceae), a giant Australian plant radiation. American Journal of Botany, 102(10), 1634–1646. doi:10.3732/ajb.1500195

Thiele, K., Weston, P., Mast, A. 2015. Paraphyly, modern systematics and the transfer of Dryandra into Banksia (Proteaceae): a response to George. Australian Systematic Botany, 28(3), 194–202. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/SB15015

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: http://dx.doi.org/10.3732/apps.1500065

Graduate Students:

Pichardo, Fritz