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Kelly Steele

Kelly Steele

Emeritus Professor, Science amd Mathematics, College of Integrative Science and Arts


College of Integrative Science and Arts
Arizona State University Polytechnic
6073 S. Backus Mall
Mesa, AZ 852812-0180


  • Senior Global Futures Scientist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory
  • Emeritus Professor, Science amd Mathematics, College of Integrative Science and Arts


Kelly P. Steele is an associate professor and faculty head of the sciences and mathematics faculty group in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts. An evolutionary plant biologist with interests in molecular, chromosomal and genome size evolution, her current research involves elucidating the phylogenetic relationships and evolution of a variety of plant species within the flowering plant family, Fabaceae (legumes), primarily in the genus, Medicago, that includes agriculturally important forage species such as alfalfa and bur-clover. To study these species, she utilizes DNA sequences of a number of nuclear and plastid encoded genes and whole genome sequence data for phylogeny reconstruction, and flow cytometry to estimate genome size. A more recent interest is plastid and nuclear genome evolution in columnar cacti, focusing particularly on the saguaro in Arizona and Mexico. Species in this group of cacti including the saguaro have lost a number of genes coding for proteins used in photosynthesis. Understanding the phylogenetic pattern of this loss can be useful in our overall understanding of plastid and nuclear genome evolution and photosynthesis.


  • PhD, Biological Sciences, University of California-Santa Barbara, 1986
  • BA, Zoology, University of California-Santa Barbara, 1975


Journal Articles


Choi, I., M. F. Wojciechowski, K. Steele, S. G. Hunter, T. A. Ruhlman and R. K. Jansen. 2022. Born in the mitochondrion and raised in the nucleus: evolution of a novel tandem repeat family in Medicago polymorpha (Fabaceae). The Plant Journal 110(2):389-406. DOI: 10.1111/tpj.15676. (link )

Steier, J. E., T. Mandakova, M. F. Wojciechowski and K. Steele. 2022. Insights into species delimitation of selected species in the flowering plant genus Medicago section Buceras (Leguminosae). Systematic Botany 47(2):431-440. DOI: 10.1600/036364422X16512564801533. (link )


Azani, N., M. Babineau, C. D. Bailey, H. Banks, A. R. Barbosa, R. Barbosa Pinto, J. S. Boatwright, L. M. Borges, G. K. Brown, A. Bruneau, E. Candido, D. Cardoso, K. Chung, R. Clark, A. de S. Conceicao, M. Crisp, P. Cubas, A. Delgado-Salinas, K. G. Dexter, J. J. Doyle, J. Duminil, A. N. Egan, M. de la Estrella, M. J. Falcao, D. A. Filatov, A. P. Fortuna-Perez, R. H. Fortunato, E. Gagnon, P. Gasson, J. Gastaldello Rando, A. M. Goulart de Azevedo Tozzi, B. Gunn, D. Harris, E. Haston, J. A. Hawkins, P. S. Herendeen, C. E. Hughes, J. R. Iganci, F. Javadi, S. A. Kanu, S. Kazempour-Osaloo, G. C. Kite, B. B. Klitgaard, F. J. Kochanovski, E. J. Koenen, L. Kovar, M. Lavin, M. le Roux, G. P. Lewis, H. C. de Lima, M. C. Lopez-Roberts, B. Mackinder, V. H. Maia, V. Malecot, V. F. Mansano, B. Marazzi, S. Mattapha, J. T. Miller, C. Mitsuyuki, T. Moura, D. J. Murphy, M. Nageswara-Rao, B. Nevado, D. M. Neves, D. I. Ojeda, R. T. Pennington, D. E. Prado, G. Prenner, L. Paganucci de Queira, G. Ramos, F. L. Ranzato Filardi, P. G. Ribeiro, M. de Lourdes Rico-Arce, M. J. Sanderson, J. Santos-Silva, W. R. Sao-Mateus, M. J. Silva, M. F. Simon, C. Sinou, C. Snak, E. R. de Souza, J. Sprent, K. P. Steele, J. E. Steier, R. Steeves, C. H. Stirton, S. Tagane, B. M. Torke, H. Toyama, D. Trabuco da Cruz, M. Vatanparast, J. J. Wieringa, M. Wink, M. F. Wojciechowski, T. Yahara, T. Yi and E. Zimmerman. 2017. A new subfamily classification of the Leguminosae based on a taxonomically comprehensive phylogeny: The Legume Phylogeny Working Group (LPWG). Taxon 66(1):44-77. DOI: 10.12705/661.3. (link )


Sanderson, M. J., D. Copetti, A. Burquez, E. Bustamante, J. L. Charboneau, L. E. Eguiarte, S. Kumar, H. Lee, J. Lee, M. McMahon, K. Steele, R. A. Wing, T. Yang, D. Zwickl and M. F. Wojciechowski. 2015. Exceptional reduction of the plastid genome of saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea, Cactaceae): loss of the ndh gene suite and inverted repeat. Botany 102(7):1115-1127. DOI: 10.3732/ajb.1500184. (link )


Borges, L. M., A. Bruneau, D. Cardoso, M. Crisp, A. Delgado-Salinas, J. J. Doyle, A. Egan, P. S. Herendeen, C. E. Hughes, G. J. Kenicer, B. B. Klitgaard, E. J. Koenen, M. Lavin, G. P. Lewis, M. A. Luckow, B. Mackinder, V. Malecot, J. T. Miller, R. T. Pennington, L. P. de Queiroz, B. D. Schrire, M. F. Simon, K. Steele, B. M. Torke, J. J. Wieringa and M. F. Wojciechowski. 2013. Towards a new classification system for legumes: Progress report from the 6th International Legume Conference. South African Journal of Botany 89(Nov):3-9. DOI: 10.1016/j.sajb.2013.07.022. (link )

Legume Phylogeny Working Group, , A. Bruneau, J. J. Doyle, P. S. Herendeen, C. E. Hughes, G. J. Kenicer, G. P. Lewis, B. Mackinder, R. T. Pennington, M. J. Sanderson, M. F. Wojciechowski, S. Boatwright, G. K. Brown, D. Cardoso, M. Crisp, A. N. Egan, R. H. Fortunato, J. A. Hawkins, T. Kajita, B. B. Klitgaard, E. J. Koenen, M. Lavin, M. A. Luckow, B. Marazzi, M. McMahon, J. T. Miller, D. J. Murphy, H. Ohashi, L. P. de Queiroz, L. Rico, T. Sarkinen, B. D. Schrire, M. F. Simon, E. R. de Souza, K. Steele, B. M. Torke, J. J. Wieringa and B. Van Wyk. 2013. Legume phylogeny and classification in the 21st century: Progress, prospects and lessons for other species–rich clades. Taxon 62(2):217-248. DOI: 10.12705/622.8. (link )