How do organisms adapt to different environments? We are interested in understanding the genetic and molecular changes that take place as organisms adapt to different environments. Which genes change, what types of genetic changes occur, and how do these changes affect the organism at the biochemical, physiological, and ecological levels?
Since plants are rooted in their environment, they are particularly adept at coping with their environment. Furthermore different species, and populations within species, have adapted to different environments. Therefore plants are well suited for studying adaptation mechanisms.
Because light is fundamental to plant growth, we have focused on how plants sense and respond to environmental light cues. We are focused on light perception by the phytochrome photoreceptors. Phytochromes sense red and far-red light and provide information about the density of neighboring foliage (among other things).
We work on Arabidopsis thaliana and related species and use a combination of molecular genetic, quantitative genetic, and molecular evolution techniques. Please see naturalvariation.org for information about some of our collaborators who are taking similar approaches.