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Beth Sorensen
Office of Communications


Reed College associate biology professor Keith Karoly has received $36,000 from the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust for two years of research on the genetic structure and mating system of a rare and endangered Northwestern larkspur, Delphinium leucophaeum, a plant primarily restricted to shallow soils associated with basalt cliffs and plateaus along the lower Willamette River drainage.

Karoly will investigate the evolutionary relationship between D. leucophaeum, a rare, white-flowered larkspur that is state-listed as endangered in Oregon, and a close relative, the more common and widespread D. nuttallii. The goal is to determine if Washington populations of a white-flowered larkspur currently recognized as the same species as Oregon D. leucophaeum have an independent evolutionary origin from Washington populations of D. nuttallii and therefore deserve recognition as a new and separate species.

Karoly began his research on D. leucophaeum in 1996. His research has focused on the reproductive biology of the larkspur and the possible role the mating system may play in contributing to the rarity of this species, as well as the distribution of genetic variation within its remaining populations.

Keith Karoly has received numerous fellowships and awards including two National Science Foundation grants, the most recent of which was a shared, four-year, $270,000 grant for research on the wild radish. His articles have been published in numerous national academic journals such as American Journal of Botany and American Naturalist. He holds a B.A., magna cum laude, from Whitman College, and an M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. He has been a member of the Reed faculty since 1993.

The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust was created by the will of the late Melvin J. Murdock, co-founder of Tektronix, Inc. and resident of Vancouver, Washington. Murdock was an idealist who felt that science was a main source of knowledge and that knowledge was the key to resolving issues. The Trust reflects Murdock’s beliefs by providing grants to organizations that seek to strengthen the Northwest region’s cultural and educational base in creative and sustainable ways. In 2000 Reed received a grant of $1,600,000 from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust in support of the renovation, enlargement, and updating of its biology building. The grant is the largest Reed has ever received from a private foundation.

Reed College, in Portland, Oregon, is an undergraduate institution of the liberal arts and sciences dedicated to sustaining the highest intellectual standards in the country. With an enrollment of about 1,360 students, Reed ranks third in the undergraduate origins of Ph.D.s in the United States and second in the number of Rhodes scholars from a liberal arts college (31 since 1915).

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