College of Biological Sciences
Lichens and bryophytes present a set of convergent approaches to the challenge of being a terrestrial photosynthetic organism that make for interesting comparisons with vascular land plants. On top of that, their reliance on atmospheric sources of water and nutrients means that their morphology and anatomy are often even more coupled to local environmental conditions than are vascular plants. This makes them particularly great organisms for getting at the interplay between shape, anatomy, and function for photosynthetic organisms. This research has two areas:
- Morphology and function of lichens: The researchers have been working in lichen-dominated ecosystems for a decade, studying both how lichen morphology responds to conditions and how lichens affect their surroundings. This work looks at how form, physiology and genetics (of both algal and fungal partners) vary in response to environment. In recent years this work has expanded to include lichen and algal genomics and transcriptomics.
- Functional traits of bryophytes: Data on plant trait trade-offs informs global models and helps test fundamental theories of plant biology. Most studies have largely focused on vascular plants, however, non-vascular plants play a major role in ecosystem processes in many globally important carbon sinks. These researchers are developing a framework relating the morphological and physiological traits of bryophytes to their environment and to ecosystem processes.