My lab’s research focuses on two distinct areas: First, we aim to understand the evolutionary causes of physiological variation in plants, particularly with respect to the ecophysiology of photosynthesis and water acquisition. By converting light into chemical energy, photosynthesis not only influences plant growth, but also sustains all other trophic levels. Our overall aim is to understand the the role of photosynthesis in plant adaptation to environmental resource variation, particularly limitations imposed by water stress. This work includes studies of natural selection on physiological traits as well as studies that link genome size and plant physiology.
Our second major goal is to understand the evolution and maintenance of the nutritional symbiosis between plants and mycorrhizal fungi. This interaction is widespread, taking place in up to 90% of all plant species on Earth. We study how mycorrhizal fungi influence the evolution of plant structure and function, and also seek to understand why the magnitude of the mutualistic benefit plants obtain from their fungal symbionts is so variable in the plant kingdom. Much of our ecological research is aimed at understanding how variation in mutualistic benefit among plant species influences diversity and productivity in plant communities.
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