My long-term research interest is to understand the diversification of plant form during evolution. Plants build their macroscopic shapes through highly regulated growth and differentiation processes that occur in meristems and organ primordia. Flowering plants, which comprise the vast majority of terrestrial plant life, have immensely diversified the way they operate their meristems and organ development. Evolutionary developmental plant biology is an integrative discipline that draws from developmental genetics, comparative developmental morphology and from phylogenetic methods in order to answer questions about morphological evolution. My research encompasses a broad range of methods, from molecular and computational biology to the analysis of morphology and microscopy.

The poppy relatives (Papaveraceae) have become the focus of my research. This plant family is impressively diverse: their dissected leaf development, flower symmetry, and inflorescence structure provide unique opportunities to study the evolution of novel morphologies. Poppies also represent an early stage in the evolution of eudicots, helping to understand the emergence of morphology in other flowering plant lineages.

I have been using virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS) and expression studies to understand the contribution of genetic regulators that are central to the development of shoots, leaves, and flowers. Together with my students and colleagues, I have established VIGS in two species, the California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) and in Cysticapnos vesicaria, allowing us to study how homologous genetic pathways operate in the context of different morphologies.

Last updated 28 October 2013