Where life begins...

Dr. Steve O'Kane

Dr. Steve O'Kane
(319) 273-2219
Biology Research Complex 59
  • Ph.D. 1993 Evolutionary and Population Biology, Washington University at St. Louis.
  • M. S. 1984 Botany, Colorado State University.
  • B.S. 1980 Range and Forest Management, Colorado State University.
Teaching Interests: 
Plant Systematics, Plant Molecular Systematics and floristic studies in the western United States, Ecology and Field Ecology

My research is in Plant Systematics. Currently I have two large research projects. I am studying members of the mustard family (Brassicaceae) especially the large genus Physaria, which Ive recently merged with Lesquerella. This research involves field, herbarium, and laboratory research. Field work to-date has already uncovered several new species. Herbarium studies have led to a revision of the South American species of Physaria. In the laboratory I and my students sequence DNA as a tool for reconstructing evolutionary history and species boundaries.

My second major research focus is the floristics of the American West. My collaborators and I recently completed a flora of the Four Corners area in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. This project has had a massive field component as well as an herbarium component. I am now working on a flora of the state of New Mexico with my long-time collaborator Ken Heil of San Juan College.

Students in my lab have worked on the population genetics of Asclepias, species boundaries and population genetics of Plantanthera, and the evolution and biogeography of Physaria reediana.


  • Heil, K.D., S.L. O'Kane, Jr., L.M. Reeves, and A. Clifford (eds.) In Press. Flora of the Four Corners Region: Vascular Plants of the San Juan River Drainage, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. Missouri Botanical Garden Press.
  • OKane, S.L., Jr. In press. Physaria. In Flora of North America. Vol. 7
  • OKane, S.L., Jr. In press. Paysonia. In Flora of North America. Vol 7.
  • OKane, S.L., Jr. 2007. Physaria scrotiformis (Brassicaceae), a new high-elevation species from southwestern Colorado and new combinations in Physaria. Novon 17:376-382.
  • OKane, S.L., Jr. and B. A. Grady. 2007. New species and combinations in Physaria (Brassicaceae) from western North America. Novon 17:182-192.
  • Beck, J.B., I.A. Al-Shehbaz, S.L. O'Kane Jr., B.A. Schaal. 2007. Further insights into the phylogeny of Arabidopsis (Brassicaceae) from nuclear Atmyb2 flanking sequence. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 42: 122-130.
  • Bailey, C.D., M.A. Koch, M. Mayer, K. Mummenhoff, S.L.OKane, Jr., S.I. Warwick, M.D. Windham, and I.A. Al-Shehbaz. 2006. Toward a global phylogeny of the Brassicaceae. Molecular Biology and Evolution 23: 2142-2160.
  • OKane, S.L., Jr. 2006. Lesquerella parvula Greene (pygmy bladderpod): a technical conservation assessment. USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region. Available online at [peer reviewed].
  • OKane, S.L., Jr. and James A. Reveal. 2006. Physaria pulvinata (Brassicaceae), a new species from southwestern Colorado. Brittonia 58:74-77.
  • OKane, S.L., Jr. And I.A. Al-Shehbaz. 2004. The genus Physaria (Brassicaceae) in South America. Novon 14:196-204.
  • OKane, S.L., Jr. and I.A. Al-Shehbaz. 2003. Phylogenetic Position and Generic Limits of Arabidopsis (Brassicaceae) Based on Sequences of Nuclear Ribosomal DNA. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 90:603-612.
  • Heil, K.D. and S.L. OKane, Jr. 2003. Catalog of the Four Corners Flora, vascular plants of the San Juan River drainage, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. Harvard Papers in Botany 7:321-379.
  • Al-Shehbaz, I.A. and S.L. OKane, Jr. 2002. Lesquerella is united with Physaria (Brassicaceae). Novon 12:319-329.
  • OKane, S.L., Jr. and I.A. Al-Shehbaz. 2002. Paysonia, a new genus segregated from Lesquerella (Brassicaceae). Novon 12:379-381.
  • Al-Shehbaz, I.A. and S.L. OKane, Jr. 2002. Taxonomy and phylogeny of Arabidopsis (Brassicaceae). In C.R. Somerville and E.M Meyerowitz (eds.), The Arabidopsis Book, doi/10.119/tab.001,
  • Price, R.A., I.A. Al-Shehbaz and S.L. OKane, Jr. 2001. Beringia (Brassicaceae), a New Genus of Arabidopsoid Affinities from Russia and North America. Novon 11(3):332336.
  • OKane, S.L., Jr. 1999. Lesquerella navajoensis (Brassicaceae), a new species of the L. hitchcockii Complex from New Mexico. Madroño 46(2):88-91.
  • Al-Shehbaz, I. A. and S.L. O'Kane Jr. 1999. Ianhedgea (Brassicaceae), a new generic name replacing the illegitimate Microsisymbrium. Edinburgh Journal of Botany 56:321-327.
  • Al-Shehbaz, I.A., S.L. O'Kane, Jr., and R.A. Price. 1999. Generic placement of species excluded from Arabidopsis (Brassicaceae). Novon 9:296-307.
  • OKane, S.L., Jr. and B.A. Schaal. 1998. Phylogenetics of Lopezia (Onagraceae): Evidence from Chloroplast DNA Restriction Sites. Systematic Botany 23:5-20.
  • OKane, S.L., Jr. and I.A. Al-Shehbaz. 1997. A synopsis of Arabidopsis (Brassicaceae). Novon 7:323-327.
  • OKane, S.L., Jr., B.A. Schaal, and I. Al-Shehbaz. 1996. The origins of Arabidopsis suecica (Brassicaceae), as indicated by nuclear rDNA. Systematic Botany 21:559-566.
  • OKane, S.L., Jr. 1995. Clone Bank and Physical Map of Lopezia miniata Lag. ex DC ssp. miniata (Onagraceae) chloroplast DNA. Biochemical Systematics and Ecology 23:507-516.
  • Al-Shehbaz, I. A. and S. L. O'Kane, Jr. 1995. Placement of Arabidopsis parvula in Thellungiella (Brassicaceae). Novon 5:309-310.
  • Schaal, B.A., S.L. O'Kane, Jr. and S.H. Rogstad. 1991. DNA Variation in Plant Populations. Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 6:329-333.
  • O'Kane, S.L., Jr. 1990. A New Species of Erigeron (Asteraceae: Astereae) From Colorado. Madroño 37:184-189.
  • O'Kane, S.L., Jr. 1988. Colorado's Rare Flora. Great Basin Naturalist 48:434-484.
  • O'Kane, S.L., Jr. and J.L. Anderson. 1987. Penstemon debilis (Scrophulariaceae): A New Species From Colorado Endemic to Oil Shale. Brittonia 39(4):412-416.