Our working group is inspired by Darwin’s contemplation of an entangled bank of elaborately constructed forms, dependent on, and interacting with one another. Members of our group have interests in the form and function of plants and how their ecology, evolution and diversification is shaped by selective agents spanning fungi and bacteria to pollinators and herbivores, as well as the abiotic environment. Similarly the ecological and evolutionary effects of plants on the morphology and community structure of the organisms that interact with them are a logical extension of these interests. We examine the forces that drive variation in the structure of communities, and how those different communities drive variation between populations. The loop is closed by identifying patterns and causes of diversity in plants and the organisms with which they interact.
Key research topics: above and below-ground interactions; coevolution; competition; evolution; ecology; pollination; fire; geographic variation; herbivory; palynology; plant and insect diversity; plant mating systems; polyploidy; seed dispersal; seed germination; speciation
“It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. … There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”