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I am a Research Scientist in Anthony Hall’s group interested in studying circadian rhythms in plants. Circadian rhythms or ‘biological clocks’ are trained to anticipate daily fluctuations in light and temperature as the world spins on its axis. A fully functioning circadian clock, well matched to its external environment has long been acknowledged to be crucial to the fitness of an individual. My work aims to answer two fundamental questions of plant circadian biology: “Does natural variation in circadian traits exist in the wild?” and “How does the circadian clock network function in crop plants with complex polyploid genomes?”
To try to answer these questions, we have developed a high-throughput, species-optimised imaging method which we use to assay circadian characteristics. This method known as ‘Delayed fluorescence imaging’ has been adapted for a range of plant models including Arabidopsis, Brassica and Wheat and requires no prior genetic modifications to the plant.
In ongoing work, we are now trying to understand how the clock network functions in wheat (Triticum aestivum). Wheat is a hexaploid monocot with a clock mechanism which is not yet well understood. If we can understand what makes for an optimum circadian clock in wheat we can select cultivars with clocks synchronised to their local environments, potentially giving us increased resilience and higher yields. We are using a transcriptomics approach to investigate which genes are rhythmically controlled and how functions are partitioned between the three genomes.