2401 Miller Plant Sciences

Dave Des Marais, Harvard, presents this lecture. From his website:

I study the diversity of life at many different scales. Like most of us, I am amazed by the visual diversity of plant life. But I am also fascinated by the diversity of genes, proteins, and other molecules which give rise to the beautiful plants that surround us. My research addresses how molecular processes shape organismal diversity, and how these processes evolve within and between species of plants.

My current research deals with the how plants interact with the environment, and how plant-environment interactions vary within and between species of plants. Unlike animals, plants cannot move to escape harsh environmental conditions. For example, if water becomes scarce, plants must adjust their water intake so as not to exhaust every last drop. And, if all soil water is exhausted, they must protect their tissues from drying out. Plants have evolved many strategies to deal with environmental stress—from the thick leaves and unusual photosynthesis seen in cacti, to so-called “resurrection plants” which can survive periods of near complete desiccation. Most plants do not have nearly such extravagant strategies for coping with stress, but all plants respond to stress in some way. I study the genetic and physiological basis of these responses. In my research, I hope to understand how plants adapt to local climates, and how we might use this information to conserve plant populations and to exploit genetic diversity to provide food and fuel for growing demand.