I am originally from Panama. I earned my B.S. from the University of Panama in 1997. For my bachelor's thesis I worked on the physiology and climbing rate of lianas that use different climbing mechanisms and that grow at different strata of the canopy. I then worked in the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute on a project relating canopy architecture, light capture efficiency, and carbon gain. In 1998, I went to the University of Puerto Rico where I earned my Master’s degree working on the reproductive biology of a Bromeliad species from the dwarf cloud forest. I was specifically interested in looking at nutrient and pollen limitation in their reproductive success, as well as examining how environmental conditions in cloud forest affect plant phenology. 

Currently, I am in my fifth semester in the Program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I am conducting my research on Barro Colorado Island, Panama, where I am working with eight species of the genus Piper. Piper is a pantropical genus of more than 2,000 species comprised of shrubs, climbers, and small trees from many different habitats. It is one of the most common genera in the understory of tropical rain forests. Many species have shown a remarkable ability to regenerate asexually. It has been suggested that in Piper vegetative propagation ability is associated with habitat. It is thought that understory species rarely regenerate from seed but readily propagate vegetatively, whereas light demanding species have little capacity for vegetative propagation but produce abundant seeds with high germination success. It is not known what proportions of the individuals recruited in the population are derived from sexual reproduction and what proportion are from asexual reproduction. If species differ in their recruitment strategies (asexual vs. sexual), they may differ in the amount of resources allocated to sexual reproduction and in the genetic structure of their populations. These are the two main areas I am interested in pursuing. This year I conducted field work to determine the breeding system, vegetative reproductive ability, seed germination and establishment success of both seedlings and cuttings for eight species of Piper to delimit species reproductive strategies and to see how this corresponds to their habitat preferences.


Lasso, E. 2000. Cambios en la comunidad de arrecifes de coral debidos al paso de embarcacionesen la Isla de Mona, Puerto Rico. Acta Científica 14:89-99.

Davidson, J., S. Rehner, M. Santana, E. Lasso, O. Ureña de Chapete, and A.Herre. 2000. First report of Phytophtora hevea and Pythium spp. on tropical tree seedling in Panama. Plant Disease 84:706.

Valladares F., S.J. Wright, E. Lasso, K. Kitajima, and R.W. Pearcy. 2000. Plastic phenotypic response to light of 16 con-generic shrubs species from a Panamanian rainforest. Ecology 81:1925-1936.

Lasso, E. and M.E. Naranjo. 2003. Effect of pollinators and nectar robbers on nectar production and pollen deposition in Hamelia patens (Rubiaceae). Biotropica 35(1):57-66.

Lasso, E. and J.D. Ackerman. 2003. Flowering phenology of Werauhia sintenisii, an epiphytic bromeliad from the dwarf montane forest in Puerto Rico: a possible indicator of climate change. Selbyana 24 (1):in press.

Dept. of Plant Biology School of Integrative Biology
Program in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology University of Illinois