We are addressing the global energy, water, and land challenge – with leaf, root and seed solutions.

Our group studies the genetic basis of adaptation in plant populations, spanning model organisms, emerging crops and foundation species. We develop and use Genomic and Phenomic tools for association studies in controlled climate chambers and out across the landscape. Phenomics is used to capture growth, development, and yield traits throughout the growing season. Genome Wide Association Studies are then used to map adaptive alleles and account for genetic structure to predict traits. These studies connect genotype to phenotype and environment with the aim to better manage lands and regenerate life supporting services. Live and work in Canberra!

Plant Energy Biology (Centre of Excellence)

Improving the efficiency of plant solar energy capture, use and yield, is a possible solution to the increasing demand on finite land, water, and nutrient resources. Extreme weather and poor soil adversely affect growth and further perturb plant energy balance, biomass and reproduction. We take a novel approach to regenerate yield by optimizing the overall plant energy efficiency of light and CO2 capture by leaves, water and nutrient capture by roots, with growth, development and reproduction.  We aim to discover networks of gene variants, signaling pathways and molecular mechanisms that regulate energetic processes under limiting and fluctuating conditions. This approach can regenerate soil to sustainable productivity of crops and future-proof plants in changing climates.

Genetics of climate adaptation in plants

A major interest of the lab is the genetic basis of adaptation to regional climates with altered growing seasons. Quantitative and population genetic approaches in model plants (Arabidopsis & Brachypodium) and foundation species (Eucalyptus and wheat) are being used to genetically dissect adaptive traits. Several basic research questions about adaptation are being addressed to guide landscape conservation and restoration. How are populations shaped by their local environment? What traits are under selection? What are the genetic loci underlying these traits? Are these new variants or new combinations of existing polymorphisms? Are alleles at these loci filtered by environmental gradients on the landscape over and above background genomic differentiation?

Genomic and Phenomic tools deployed in simulated climates

Advanced Genomic and Phenomic approaches bring unprecedented power and speed to this work. Both short and long read (minion) genome sequencing are being used to generate new reference genomes and impute dense SNP maps. Genome Wide Association Mapping and Landscape Genomic scans associate variation with phenotypes and environments where accessions were collected. Phenomics tools provide high resolution and high throughput phenotyping capturing size shape and color traits throughout development. Grow Capsule climate containers simulate dynamic field conditions without weather variation to grow plants across future locations and times.  The precision regeneration station will bring these technologies to the field.

Regenerative Agriculture: soil, biomass and biodiversity

Regenerative agricultural underlies global food and climate security by improving yield under limiting environmental conditions while building the natural resource base of fertile soil. Rapid selection and breeding in new species can be achieved through genomic association and selection. To this end, thousands of accessions from model, crop, and foundation plant species (eg Eucalypts) are being sequenced to identify deep genomic diversity and functional alleles associated with growth, reproduction, and environmental adaptation. The resulting landscape effects, in turn have outputs measured as ecosystems services including biomass, food, habitat for biodiversity, and water, carbon, and nitrogen sequestration, that input again on regenerative growth.

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