Faculty

The Green Life Science Initiative at the University of Michigan represents a collaboration among faculty from a broad range of departments and plant science areas.  Explore their research interests below.

 


Christiane Anderson : Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Christiane Anderson

Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

My work is focused on the taxonomy of the neotropical family Malpighiaceae, currently on the genera Mezia and Hiraea.

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Regina Baucom : Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Regina Baucom

Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

The work in the Baucom lab integrates across the fields of ecology, evolution, and genetics to understand the mechanisms that underlie the success and persistence of noxious agricultural weeds as well as the evolution of important plant functional traits. While we work on a variety of topics, a major focus in the lab currently is on the problem of herbicide resistance. Our research asks: What is the genetic basis of herbicide resistance, and is it the same across populations? Are there constraints or “brakes” on herbicide resistance evolution? How does the plant mating system influence the evolution of resistance?

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Paul Berry : Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Paul Berry

Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

My research interests are in plant systematics, including floristics, molecular phylogenetics, phytogeography, and bioinformatics. My work has mainly focused on the Neotropics, particularly the Guayana Shield, the Andes, and Brazil, as well as the upper midwestern United States. Plant groups of special interest are Euphorbiaceae (Euphorbia and Croton), Fuchsia (Onagraceae), and Rapateaceae. I am particularly interested in the study of "giant genera," those that are considered to contain over 500 species and have often been avoided because of their complex taxonomy, geography, and large numbers.

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Jennifer Blesh : School for Environment and Sustainability

Jennifer Blesh

School for Environment and Sustainability

In the Blesh lab, we focus on applying ecological principles to design and manage more sustainable agroecosystems. In particular, our research emphasizes management of plant diversity on farms to provide ecosystem functions such as nutrient cycling and soil carbon storage, and understanding relationships between legume nitrogen fixation and field-scale nitrogen use efficiency. We also incorporate social science methods to understand innovation processes on farms.

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Robyn Burnham : Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Robyn Burnham

Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

The research in our lab follows a fascination with climbing plants. Lianas, vines, and scramblers all use other plants (or structures) as their structural support. Climbers are found in more than 100 angiosperm plant families, rivaling the diversity of trees, shrubs, and herbs, and yet, they climb their hosts and modify organs and tissues in myriad ways. Biodiversity is at the heart of our research because of the broad phylogenetic representation among climbers. We are especially focused on the woody, persistent climbers, or lianas, that are common in tropical forests of the western hemisphere. In addition, our research compares the well-known tropical forest biodiversity with temperate forest diversity of climbing plants, especially in the mesic eastern forests of the United States.

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Justin Colacino : Environmental Health Sciences

Justin Colacino

Environmental Health Sciences

Dr. Justin Colacino is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences in the School of Public Health. His research focuses on understanding environmental and dietary factors in carcinogenesis and cancer prevention. Specifically, the goal of his research is to characterize the environmental susceptibility of normal human stem cell populations, elucidating the etiology of sporadic cancers. Of particular interest are understanding the changes that occur at the epigenetic and transcriptional level, changes which affect not only gene expression but also how progenitor cells differentiate and divide. His research group combines wet lab bench work and bioinformatic and statistical analysis of large scale genomic and epidemiologic data sets to translate findings from in vitro models to the population level.

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Bill Currie : School for Environment and Sustainability

Bill Currie

School for Environment and Sustainability

Bill Currie studies how physical, chemical, and ecological processes work together in the functioning of ecosystems such as forests and wetlands. He studies how human impacts and management alter key ecosystem responses including nutrient retention, carbon storage, plant species interactions, and plant productivity. Dr. Currie uses computer models of ecosystems, including models in which he leads the development team, to explore ecosystem function across the spectrum from wildland to heavily human-impacted systems. He often works in collaborative groups where a model is used to provide synthesis. He is committed to the idea that researchers must work together across traditional fields to address the complex environmental and sustainability issues of the 21st century. He collaborates with field ecologists, geographers, remote sensing scientists, hydrologists, and land management professionals.

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Chris Dick : Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Chris Dick

Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

My lab group studies evolution, ecology and historical biogeography of plants in temperate and tropical forests. I am particularly interested in understanding the drivers of tree species richness. Our study sites are in Central America, Andean slopes and the Amazon basin.

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Bob Grese : School for Environment and Sustainability

Bob Grese

School for Environment and Sustainability

Bob Grese serves as Director of the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum. His teaching and research involve ecologically-based landscape design and management that respects the cultural and natural history of a region. Grese is particularly interested in the restoration and ongoing management of urban wilds and the role such lands can play in re-connecting children and families with nature. He has long been fascinated by the work of early designers such as Jens Jensen and Ossian Cole Simonds who borrowed from the native landscape in their work, as there is much to be learned about their designs and their fate over time. He has a growing interest in green roofs and other low impact design strategies.

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Mark Hunter : Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Mark Hunter

Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

My research links population processes and ecosystem processes in terrestrial environments. I am particularly interested in feedback processes that operate between the population dynamics of herbivores and the quality of plants upon which they feed. I use a combination of approaches and techniques including field experiments, laboratory experiments, mathematical modeling, soil chemistry, plant chemistry, and stable isotope analysis. In addition to the development of theory, I apply what we learn to environmental issues including climate change, pest dynamics, and invasive species.

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Inés Ibáñez : School for Environment and Sustainability

Inés Ibáñez

School for Environment and Sustainability

Our major research interests focus on the current challenges that plant communities are facing in the context of global change, i.e. climate change, invasive species, and landscape fragmentation. These challenges are interconnected as they form the novel environment under which plants are growing. The fact that forest communities are highly dependent on recruitment dynamics makes the study of early demographic stages critical for understanding the impact of global change on the natural ecosystems around us. To isolate these phenomena, we have directed our research at the recruitment of dominant tree species, from seed production to the sapling stage, including seed dispersal, germination, establishment and survival during the first years. This line of research covers a gap on the study of vegetation response to global change, where most work done has been on the basis of correlative approaches, e.g., climate envelopes. By focusing on the actual demographic responses of plant species to a changing environment, results from our work will be essential to forecast reliable vegetation changes under future climate scenarios.

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Andrew Jones : Nutritional Sciences, School of Public Health

Andrew Jones

Nutritional Sciences, School of Public Health

Andrew Jones is a public health nutritionist, interested in understanding the influence of agriculture and food systems on the nutritional status of women and children in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). His research examines: i) how agricultural and landscape biodiversity influence diet quality and food security among smallholder farming households in LMICs; ii) the role of livestock value chains in contributing to anemia among women and children through diet, infection, and environmental exposures; iii) how food systems changes associated with the “nutrition transition” in LMICs potentiate the risk of concurrent undernutrition and obesity, and the impacts of urbanicity and household food security in mediating these dynamics; and iv) the implications for food systems of aligning dietary recommendations with goals for environmental sustainability.

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Nancy Love : Civil and Environmental Engineering

Nancy Love

Civil and Environmental Engineering

I am an environmental engineer who focuses on water quality and waste management. Many of my projects fit, but the one that may be of greatest interest is my NSF INFEWS project where we are looking at technologies that transform urine into usable fertilizer for crops and non-crop plants, risks associated with this form of fertilizer versus synthetic fertilizer or other "sustainable" reuse fertilizers (like biosolids), and testing which methods are most effective in advancing human acceptance of this approach to nutrient (resource) recovery and reuse.

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Jianming Li : Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

Jianming Li

Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

Both animals and plants use steroids as signaling molecules to regulate a variety of growth and developmental processes, however, their signaling mechanisms are quite different. While animal steroids are mainly recognized by intracellular steroid receptors that provide a fast track for the chemical signals to move into the nucleus for controlling gene activities, plants steroids are perceived by a transmembrane receptor kinase that initiates a phosphorylation-mediated signal transduction pathway. For the last several years, my lab, along with several other plant steroid research groups, has identified several key regulators of the plant steroid signaling using Arabidopsis as our genetic model system.

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Cora MacAlister : Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

Cora MacAlister

Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

Research in the lab is focused on understanding the role of secreted glycoproteins in plant development and evolution. The plant cell wall is an essential and complex compartment which contains many types of glycoproteins that play poorly understood structural and signaling roles. Work in the lab is focused on understanding the contribution of glycoproteins to developmental pathways in a variety of taxa. The model systems we use span the range of plant evolution and complexity (from bryophytes to angiosperms) and also capture part of the great diversity of glycoproteins found within the plant kingdom.

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David Michener :  Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum

David Michener

Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum

Dr. Michener's research focuses on peony domestication, genomics, and cultural history, as well as rematriation of culturally linked heritage plants and plant conservation.

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Erik Nielsen : Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

Erik Nielsen

Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

The long-term aims of my research program are centered on the following three interrelated aims: (1) identify and characterize membrane trafficking pathways involved in polarized secretion in plant cells; (2) determine the molecular machinery that sorts cargo for polarized secretion, especially those components involved in sorting of plant-specific polysaccharides and cell wall proteins (e.g. hemicelluloses and arabinogalactan proteins); and, (3) examine how polarization cues from neighboring cells and tissues are perceived and how they influence the subcellular orientation of plant secretory pathways.

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Laura J. Olsen : Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

Laura J. Olsen

Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

Proteins synthesized in the cytoplasm must be targeted to their proper subcellular location and transported across the appropriate organellar membrane boundaries. Dr. Olsen's research focuses on the assembly of peroxisomes, which are small organelles present in all eukaryotes.

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Annette Ostling : Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Annette Ostling

Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

In my lab we study community ecology, focusing on the influence of interspecific competition on community structure, and what insights patterns of community structure might provide about the mechanisms by which competing species coexist. We are especially interested in the interplay of stochasticity and immigration with competition, and the use of neutral theory as a process-based null model of community pattern, and in patterning in functional traits. We are also especially interested in coexistence of tree species in forests. We focus on developing and studying mathematical models to gain insight, but are increasingly interested in making comparisons with data, or specifically studying models parameterized by field data.

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Yin-Long Qiu : Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Yin-Long Qiu

Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Yin-Long Qiu is a plant evolutionary biologist specializing in the study of evolution of land plants. He and his lab have engaged in the following areas of research over the last 20 years: reconstructing the early land plant and basal angiosperm phylogenies, investigating mitochondrial genome evolution in early land plants, and studying the origin and evolution of genetic mechanisms underlying evolution of characters that confer adaptive advantages to plants during several major evolutionary niche transitions, such as plant-mycorrhizal fungus symbiosis.

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Richard Rabeler : Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Richard Rabeler

Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

I specialize in the Caryophyllaceae. One of my major interests involves documenting occurrences of introduced members of this family, especially in the Great Lakes region and the southeastern United States. These plants are often much more widely distributed than suggested by floristic manuals. I am also interested in nomenclature and relationships of the genera and subfamilies that are included in the Caryophyllaceae.  I am active in the Flora of North America project, currently serving as Co-Lead Editor on Volume 17 with Dr. Craig C. Freeman of the University of Kansas.  I am also Past-President of the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections.

John Schiefelbein : Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

John Schiefelbein

Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

A fundamental feature of development in multicellular organisms is the specification and patterning of distinct cell types. Our lab studies the formation of the hair and non-hair cell types in the root epidermis of Arabidopsis thaliana as an elegant and powerful model system for uncovering the mechanisms of cell specification.

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David Sherman : Microbiology and Immunology / Chemistry

David Sherman

Microbiology and Immunology / Chemistry

The Sherman laboratory studies biological catatysts and metabolic pathways involved in producing natural products from photosynthetic organisms, particularly cyanobacteria. The high value small molecules generated from these systems have exciting applications in pharmaceutical discovery and bioenergetic materials.

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Selena Smith : Earth and Environmental Sciences / Program in the Environment

Selena Smith

Earth and Environmental Sciences / Program in the Environment

My group studies the paleobiology of plants, including their evolution and their link to climate and environment on broad timescales. We use both modern and fossil plants, and a variety of tools including phytoliths, stable isotopes, X-ray tomography, and anatomy to address questions relating to systematics, evolution, ecology, and the Earth-Life system.

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Stephen Smith : Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Stephen Smith

Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

My lab conducts research on phylogenetics, plant evolution, transcriptomics, and molecular evolution. We use new data sources to address questions about how species are related.

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Duxin Sun : Pharmaceutical Sciences

Duxin Sun

Pharmaceutical Sciences

Drug discovery and nanomedicine for cancer therapy: The Sun Lab's research focuses on drug discovery and nanomedicine for cancer therapeutics. Specifically, they are currently working on: (A) Natural Products to eliminate cancer stem cells; (B) Drug discovery targeting epigenetics and cancer stem cell targets, (C) Nanomedicine for targeted drug delivery and cancer therapy; (D) ADME and pharmacokinetics for lead compound optimization, and (E) Drug release in GI tract for modified release (MR) drug products.

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Andrzej Wierzbicki : Molecular, Cellular, & Developmental Biology

Andrzej Wierzbicki

Molecular, Cellular, & Developmental Biology

We use plant model systems to study molecular mechanisms of gene regulation. We are especially interested in understanding how RNA controls DNA organization both in the nucleus and in endosymbiotic organelles.

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