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Fundamental research

fundamental research
Confocal image of emerging leaf primordia in meristem of an Arabidopsis seedling
Our strategic targets in agricultural crops, industrial biotechnology, and plants and the environment are all built on a strong foundation of basic botany in which we address the fundamental concepts and mechanisms of plant life. We cover all levels of organisation from molecules to cells to organisms to populations and landscapes and we are interested in timescales from the very short duration of molecular reactions through to evolutionary transitions over millennia or longer.
Molecular interests include the mechanisms of enzymes and the chromosomal factors affecting exchange of genes between the maternal and paternal sets of chromosomes. At the cellular level we have a major interest in the way that calcium affects regulatory process including those affecting growth and the internal clock of plant cells.

One of the mysteries in biology is how complex and diverse processes at the molecular and cellular level are integrated across the whole organism. To address these organismal questions we have interests in signalling mechanisms involving hormones and other informational molecules, including RNA that can be transported in plants. Related to this topic we investigate the basic principles of self organisation using modelling and imaging methodologies.

We are also interested in diverse evolutionary topics. These include the transitions from simple organisation in non-vascular plants to the complex structures of our modern flora. Shorter term evolutionary questions address the generation of heritable variation at the chromosomal level using molecular methods, and modelling approaches to understanding of interactions between plants and other organisms at the landscape level.

Other work at the population and landscape level generates knowledge of how organisms respond to and affect the environment and how they disperse across landscapes.We are developing mathematical models to predict disease spread and plant community dynamics and utilizing remote sensing technologies to scale up our predictions to policy-relevant scales. In addition, our work in tropical forests is shedding new light on carbon and nutrient cycling.