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How plants respond to climate change

Jill Anderson, an assistant professor of genetics, has received a $1.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation Early Career Development Program to study the effects of climate change on plants. Among the NSF's most prestigious, CAREER awards support junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholar and the integration of education and research:

Anderson's project tests whether plants will be able to survive on a warming planet by using a mustard plant species called Drummond's rockcress as a model. Native to the Rocky Mountains, Drummond's rockcress can grow at elevations as low as 5,000 feet and higher than 12,000 feet, and its range extends from Alaska to Arizona.

"This plant has been exposed to variable climates throughout its evolutionary history, and studies suggest that it has adapted well to changes in climate brought on by events like the expansion and contraction of glaciers," said Anderson, who also has a joint appointment in UGA's Odum School of Ecology. "Now we want to see if this plant can do the same thing when faced with rapid changes in climate brought on by human activities."

Anderson is particularly interested in the adaptations that allow plants like Drummond's rockcress to "migrate" to new areas in response to changing climates.

As the atmosphere warms, for example, seeds may begin to germinate at higher elevations, allowing plants to move into environments that were previously too inhospitable.

Congratulations to Dr. Anderson. As we document here often, our scientists are performing important, frontline research to help inform our understanding of climate change. Her insights will in turn help determine our own responses to environmental changes. May these be wise. 

Image: teaser - Drummond's rockcress. Above - Dr. Jill Anderson

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