Research Interests

Using phylogenetic methods, our research investigates the mechanisms that led to the functional diversity of plants. We combine analyses of gene sequences, genomes, transcriptomes, ecological, physiological and morphological traits to address questions of importance for evolutionary biology in general:

These questions are addressed using comparative approaches, working both at large taxonomic scales and within some selected species. As a study system, we use mainly the evolution of C4 and CAM photosynthesis in grasses and other groups of plants. While transcriptomes and genomes are compared across distantly related families, the origins and consequences of variation in photosynthetic traits is also investigated within the grass species Alloteropsis semialata, the only taxon known to include both C3 and C4 individuals.

1. Genomics of Alloteropsis

This project investigates the evolutionary dynamics of genomes of C3 and C4 individuals of Alloteropsis species. In addition to being key to understand how C4 evolved, this project will shed new light on the mechanism of lateral gene transfer among land plants.

Collaborators: Dr Patrik Nosil and Prof Colin Osborne

2. Ecological significance of individual C4 traits

The aim of this research is to understand how and when individual components of C4 photosynthesis evolved, and what was their evolutionary significance. It is conducted by studying in parallel the genotypes, phenotypes and ecology within Alloteropsis semialata.

Collaborators: Prof Colin Osborne, Dr Patrik Nosil and Dr Jim Reid

Cross sections of grasses

Cross-sections of grasses; Alloteropsis semialata (C4), Pariana modesta (C3), Cyrtococcum deltoideum (C3), and Panicum dichotomiflorum (C4).

3. Origins of genes for C4/CAM photosynthesis in early plants

We are comparing the genetic determinants of C4/CAM photosynthesis among closely as well as distantly origins of these novel pathways. This research will help us understand how repeatable evolution is at the genetic level.

Collaborators: Prof Colin Osborne and Prof David Beerling.