Research Areas


Systematics and Evolution

Faculty members in this section study the diversity of plants, algae, fungi, and lichens.  Systematics is a synthetic science that employs multiple lines of evidence to develop systems of nomenclature, classification, monographs, floristic inventories, and hypotheses of phylogenetic relationships.  The process of evolution and mechanisms of speciation are the ultimate driving forces leading to the diversity of life, and so it has been famously stated that "nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."  The faculty in Systematics and Evolution specialize in the taxonomy and evolution of various plant lineages, statewide floristics, tropical fieldwork, herbarium curation, methods and theory of phylogenetic reconstruction, and the interface between evolutionary and developmental plant biology biology. 

For details see the following faculty member web pages: Cécile Ané; David Baum; Kenneth Cameron; Eve Emshwiller; Linda Graham; Bret Larget; Anne Pringle; Kenneth Sytsma

Faculty members with strong interests in systematics and evolution include: Thomas Givnish; Donald Waller



The faculty members in this section of the department analyze the basis for ecological and evolutionary patterns in plant life history, adaptive morphology, and community structure, with particular emphasis on the selective forces that may underlie them, and on the empirical trends they generate at various scales of resolution. Specific interests include biomechanics, physiological ecology, economic analyses of plant form, pollination biology, evolution and genetics of mating systems, plant-animal interactions, ordination and classification of communities, hierarchy theory, restoration ecology, and conservation biology. Members in this section of the department include:

Thomas Givnish; Linda Graham; Sara Hotchkiss; Kate McCulloh; Anne Pringle; Donald Waller; Joy Zedler


Structural Plant Biology

Faculty members in this section are interested in the functional significance of structural features in order to understand plant organelle functions, evolution, and systematics. Prokaryotes, protists, multicellular algae, bryophytes, and vascular plants are studied using a variety of microscopy techniques such as light microscopy, confocal scanning laser microscopy, cryofixation/freeze substitution, dual-axis electron tomography, scanning electron microscopy, and immunolabeling. Specific interests include algal structure, development, and systematics; the rise of land plants; organelle organization and membrane traffic; cytokinesis, vacuole formation; seed development. For details see the follow faculty member web pages:

Linda Graham; Marisa Otegui

Faculty member with a strong interest in structure and function of plant ultrastructure: Kate McCulloh

The Phytomorph project uses machine vision techniques to study the development of plant form.


Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

Faculty members in this section study the mechanisms that produce and control plant growth and development. Ongoing research projects employ model research species Arabidopsis, maize, and rice to investigate several processes from ranging across the plant life cycle from seed germination to flowering with all manner of modern molecular, genetic, biochemical, physiological, and microscopy techniques. See the following faculty member web pages for more specific information about current research.

Donna Fernandez; Simon Gilroy; Hiroshi Maeda; Marisa Otegui; Edgar Spalding

Other faculty members with related interests, particularly with regard to developmental biology include: David Baum; Kenneth Sytsma