412B Mann Library Building
As Department Chair I am particularly interested in developing departmental preeminence in basic plant biology at a time when progress in basic plant biology research is important to critical societal needs including: the development of strategic responses to the effects of climatic change in vital areas including biodiversity maintenance and agriculture; the development of biomedicinals, and investigations of plant based energy sources. My immediate goal has been to build strength in various facets of plant molecular biology including plant biochemistry with complementary strength in the area of plant systematics including theory and molecular systematics. These emphases will be enhanced by another immediate priority, cultivating the kind of research relationships with other Cornell administrative units that will promote and enhance our research eminence by allowing the Department to enter exciting and important areas of research that would be difficult to engage in in the absence of such collaborations or where synergies derived from these collaborations materially improve the Department's and University's positions in these key areas of research.
With respect to my own research, my focus is on establishing a dependable fossil record for the flowering plants that includes reliably identified floral evidence. This approach is unique and informative due to the nature of flowers, the phylogenetic significance of their characters and adaptive significance. Such a record has implications for climate change, molecular evolution, hyper radiations characteristic of the angiosperms and for evaluating ecological-evolutionary hypotheses invoked to explain angiosperm dominance of modern ecosystems. Such research has implications for systematics/systematics methodologies and for the evaluation of molecular clock based timing models.
My focus is on assisting in establishing the web based equivalents of the widely used horticultural publications Hortus and Bailey`s Manual. These publications have significance that goes beyond the practicalities of horticulture in NYS and includes biodiversity characterization important in identifying species distribution changes that might be related to climate change, invasive plant species etc.. The web based equivalents will have much more information than was available in the original publications and be structured to provide relevant information to a broader constituency.
My overall view of teaching is exemplified in my teaching focus for Plant Biology 4480, Plant Evolution and the Fossil Record, where the emphasis is on the integration of the fossil record with evolutionary theory in an ecological setting. This course involves hands on experience with study of fossils in the laboratory giving students the opportunity to observe directly the past diversity of life. This diversity is given structure in the form of phylogenetic context-a correlate of the evolutionary process and one that incorporates theory and important developments in molecular genetics, that is then related back to evolutionary theory in an ecological setting. The course is divided into lecture and laboratory with the lecture emphasizing major issues in evolutionary biology, systematics and key steps in plant evolution rather than being solely a compendium of facts. Testing is done in laboratory to insure that essential fact based learning is accomplished but lecture exams are conceptual and synthetic in nature and require the cogent presentation of structured arguments that are well reasoned and thoroughly evidenced.