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Organised by Sir Peter Crane FRS, Professor Else Marie Friis and Professor William Chaloner FRS
This meeting will highlight the influence of Darwin on our understanding of the evolution of flowers, presenting new and emerging evidence from seed plant phylogenetics, palaeobotany and morphology. It will review how recent research in these and related fields has brought us closer to resolving the origin of flowers and flowering plants (Darwin's so-called "abominable mystery"). The recent clarification of angiosperm phylogeny at many taxonomic levels, coupled with evidence from the fossil record has given new opportunities for understanding patterns in the evolution of floral structure and biology.
This meeting will also explore how the vast range of floral form seen in the angiosperms has been generated by developmental genetics, and the impacts of contemporary environmental change on the pollination of flowers.
The proceedings of this meeting are scheduled to be published in a future issues of Philosophical Transactions B.
Professor Sir Peter Crane FRS, University of Chicago Organiser
Peter Crane is The John and Marion Sullivan University Professor at The University of Chicago. He is known internationally for his work on the diversity of plant life. He received his degrees from the University of Reading and joined the Field Museum in Chicago in 1982 where he served as Director from 1992 to 1999. From 1999 to 2006 he was Director of The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Peter Crane was elected to the Royal Society in 1998. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences, a Foreign Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and a Member of the German Academy Leopoldina. He was knighted in the UK for services to horticulture and conservation in 2004.
Professor Else Marie FriisDiversity in Obscurity: Fossil Flowers and the Phylogenetic Relationships of the EarlY Angiosperms
Professor William Chaloner FRS, Royal Holloway, University of London Organiser
Bill Chaloner is Emeritus Professor of Botany in the Earth Sciences Department at Royal Holloway, University of London, and Visiting Professor in Earth Sciences at University College, London. His first teaching post was in Botany at University College, moving to take the Chair of Botany at Birkbeck College, and thence to Bedford College until its merger with Royal Holloway College. He has held visiting professorships at the University of Nigeria, at Penn State University and at the University of Massachusetts. His research has dealt with the fossil record of the history of plant life on land from the Silurian to the present and the response of plant life to changes in atmospheric composition and climate. He has also explored the relationship between the fossil spore (palynological) record and that of plant macrofossils as a means of elucidating the palaeoecology of the terrestrial environment.
Professor Spencer C.H. Barrett FRS; University of TorontoA Darwinian perspective on the evolution and function of floral diversity
Professor Barrett is Canada Research Chair in Evolutionary Genetics and University Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in 1977 and joined the faculty at Toronto later that year. Professor Barrett's research interests concern the evolution and function of plant sexual diversity, with a particular focus on evolutionary transitions in plant reproductive systems. He combines natural history observations, comparative biology, and the tools of ecological and evolutionary genetics to address basic questions on floral and mating-system evolution. He has worked on a variety of problems in plant reproductive biology including the evolution of selfing from outcrossing, the evolution of separate sexes from combined sexes, and the function of floral design and display. In 2008 he received the Sewall Wright Award given by the American Society of Naturalists for making major contributions to the unification of the biological sciences. He was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 1998 and the Royal Society of London in 2004.
Professor Sarah MathewsThe state of seed plant phylogenetics: implications for understanding the origin of flowers
Sarah Mathews is a Sargent Fellow of the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University. Her research seeks to characterize patterns of plant diversity and to understand the question of how changes in light-sensing systems have influenced the ability of plants to survive and diversify. She received graduate degrees from Montana State University and was on the faculty at the University of Missouri-Columbia before joining the Arboretum staff as a research fellow.
Dr Charlie Scutt, Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon Developmental perspectives on the origin of the angiosperm carpel
Charlie Scutt heads a research group at the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon studying the evolution and development of the flower. He began his career with a Botany degree at the University of Reading, followed by a PhD in Plant Molecular Biology at the University of Durham. He then undertook postdoctoral appointments in the universities of Durham and Leeds on subjects related to plant reproduction before moving to Lyon in 1998.
Dr Paula J. Rudall, Royal Botanic Gardens, KewThe limits of flowers
Paula Rudall received her both her PhD and DSc from the University of London. She is currently a senior researcher at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, where she was appointed Head of Micromorphology in 1998. Author of more than 200 papers and books, including a textbook on The Anatomy of Flowering Plants, her research combines focused morphological studies in a developmental-genetic and phylogenetic context, involving some highly successful collaborations. A primary goal is to develop strong concepts of homology for selected key morphological characters. Current research foci include the evolutionary origin of flowers, using comparative studies on a broad range of angiosperms. Other work includes comparative plant embryology (especially the evolutionary history of the embryo sac and endosperm) and pollen morphology and development (especially the evolution of microsporogenesis in angiosperms).
Professor Peter K. Endress, University of Zurich The evolution of floral biology in basal angiosperms
Peter K. Endress is Professor Emeritus of the University of Zurich, where he works at the Institute of Systematic Botany. He has been active in the study of flowering plant systematics and flower development and evolution for more than forty years. A main focus of his work has been on the flowers of phylogenetically basal extant angiosperms. He has encountered many of the isolated living fossils" in the field in various parts of the tropics and studied their reproductive structures. He has collaborated with paleobotanists, molecular developmental geneticists and phylogeneticists and in this way took part in the reconstruction of early flowering plant evolution.
Dr Susan Renner, University of Munich The evolution and loss of oil-offering flowers -- new insights from dated phylogenies and Cucurbitaceae
Research Interests: Molecular phylogenetics with particular emphasis on seed plants; flower-insect interactions; evolution of plant sexual systems and sex chromosomes; biogeography and molecular clocks; lateral gene transfer in plants. Renner has worked at herbaria and universities in Brazil, Washington DC, Denmark, Mainz, St. Louis, and Munich. She currently teaches systematics at the University of Munich and directs the Munich botanical garden and herbarium.
Professor Jürg Schönenberger, Stockholm UniversityDiversity and evolution of floral structure and biology in Ericales
Jürg Schönenberger is an Associate Professor in Plant Systematics at Stockholm University, Sweden. He gained his PhD from the University of Zürich in 1998 working on comparative floral structure of Acanthaceae. He then undertook post-doctoral work at the Swedish Museum of Natural History (palaeobotany), at the University of Zürich (molecular phylogenetics and floral evolution), and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (molecular phylogenetics). His research interests are in phylogenetic relationships and floral evolution of various groups of fossil and extant flowering plants. Recent work is focused on Ericales, Acanthaceae, and Platanaceae.
Professor Elena Kramer, Harvard UniversityThe developmental basis of floral diversity in Ranunculaceae: evidence from the Aquilegia model system
Elena did her undergraduate degree at Brandeis University (B.A. summa cum laude, 1993) working on neurogenetics of mating behavior in Drosophila melanogaster. She then went to the Biology Dept. at Yale University (now the Dept. of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology) and did her PhD work in the lab of Dr. Vivian Irish (Ph.D., 1999). This work on the evolution of APETALA3 and PISTILLATA gene lineages laid the foundation for her current research in the Dept. of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard (2000-present). The Kramer Lab is very broadly interested in the evolution of floral morphology. They use molecular, morphological, and phylogenetic approaches to study how flowers have changed over the course of evolutionary time. Research projects in the lab cover a diverse set of topics, including gene lineage evolution and the effects of gene duplication, the morphological diversification of floral parts such as petals and fruits, and the evolutionary and ecological significance of pollinator interactions. The Kramer lab has also been instrumental in the development of Aquilegia as a new model system for the study of evolution and ecology. This work has been done in collaboration with Scott Hodges (UCSB, another speaker in this symposium), Justin Borevitz (Univ. of Chicago), Magnus Nordborg (USC) and the Clemson University Genomics Institute.
Professor Scott HodgesFloral adaptations in Aquilegia: from field to genomic studies
Dr Sandra Knapp, The Natural History MuseumOn "various contrivances": pollination, phylogeny and flower form in the Solanaceae
Sandra Knapp obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in Botany from Pomona College, in Claremont, California and her PhD in 1986 from Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. She is a specialist on the taxonomy of the nightshade family, Solanaceae, and has spent much time in the field in Central and South America collecting plants. She came to the Natural History Museum, London, in 1992 to manage the international project Flora Mesoamericana--a synoptic inventory of the approximately 18,000 species of plants of southern Mexico and the isthmus of Central America. She is also the author of several popular books on the history of science and botanical exploration, including the award-winning Potted Histories (2004). She is the author of more than 100 peer-reviewed scientific papers and actively involved in promoting the role of taxonomy and its significance to conservation worldwide. Dr. Knapp is an elected member of the councils of Fauna and Flora International, the Linnean Society of London, the Organization Pro-Flora Neotropica, the International Association of Plant Taxonomy and the Tropical Biology Association. She is on the editorial board of several scientific journals including BMC Evolutionary Biology, Taxon, Oryx and Systematics and Biodiversity and is a member of Faculty of 1000. Her current projects include Flora Mesoamericana, a world-wide taxonomic monograph of the megadiverse genus Solanum (Solanaceae), collaborative research in pjhylogenetics and genomic evolution of Solanaceae, and the production of field guides for use in biodiversity monitoring in South and Central America.
Professor Cris Kuhlemeier, University of BernSpeciation genes in the genus Petunia
Cris Kuhlemeier has a PhD in Genetics from the University of Utrecht. His interests are the molecular mechanisms of phyllotaxis and the genetics of pollination syndromes using Petunia as a model system. In the genus Petunia, complex pollination syndromes are found for diurnal bees, nocturnal hawkmoths and hummingbirds, with characteristic differences in petal color, corolla shape, reproductive organ morphology, nectar quantity, nectar quality, and fragrance. We are interested in the genes that specify the phenotypic differences between these closely related species. Since mutations in such genes are likely to cause reproductive isolation they are potential speciation genes. Using interspecific crosses, QTL analysis, genetic introgressions and transgenic plants, we have dissected the Petunia pollination syndromes into their individual components. In the case of petal color we could show that a naturally occurring polymorphism in a single gene can have major impact on pollinator preference.
Professor Lawrence HarderFloral adaptation and diversification under pollen limitation
Lawrence Harder combines theory with empirical studies of pollinator behaviour, pollen dispersal and plant mating in the search for functional explanations for the remarkable diversity of floral design and display that characterizes angiosperms. After a formal education in zoology (Ph.D. 1983), Lawrence shifted focus to plant reproduction during a post-doctoral fellowship with James Thomson, which he has continued to explore since his appointment to the University of Calgary in 1986. The resulting 80 publications, including an volume edited with Spencer Barrett on Ecology and Evolution of Flowers, consider various aspects of the evolutionary ecology of plant reproduction, including pollen transport, pollen size, ovule production, the limits on seed production, inflorescence displays, pollen discounting and mixed mating.
Professor Raymond TremblayPollination biology of orchids - past, present and future
Professor Raymond Louis Tremblay was born in Northern Ontario, Canada and has been living in the Caribbean (Puerto Rico) for the last 17 years and is member of the faculty of the University of Puerto Rico. He divides his times in two areas of research, conservation biology and evolutionary processes in small populations. Specifically he is interested in the interface between natural selection and genetic drift in natural populations. He has used orchids as a model system to evaluate questions relating to effective population size, gene flow, fitness advantages, reproductive biology, population and metapopulation dynamics.
Professor Steven Johnson Pollinator-driven diversification of the southern African flora
Steve Johnson holds the South African Research Chair in Evolutionary Biology and is a Professor in the School of Biological and Conservation Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Pietermaritzburg. His PhD was obtained from the University of Cape Town in 1994. He has a particular interest in orchid pollination systems, but works on the reproductive biology of many different plant families. His research is aimed at understanding the evolutionary diversification of plants, particularly in southern Africa, the conservation of plant pollination systems, and the reproductive biology of invasive species. He has recently developed a strong interest in the role of floral volatiles in mediating specialized plant-pollinator interactions. He has published 130 scientific papers, a book on the Natural History of Table Mountain and many popular science articles.
Professor Kingsley Dixon, Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority, AustraliaPollination ecology, floral evolution and the possible impact of climate change in the Southwest Australian Biodiversity Hotspot
Professor Dixon has over 20 years experience in researching the ecology and physiology of Australian native plants and ecosystems. He leads a science group comprising botanical and restoration sciences and, as Director of Science at the Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority (BGPA), has developed a strong multi-disciplinary approach to conservation and of native plant biodiversity and restoration of degraded landscapes. The research team comprising over 40 research staff and postgraduate students specialising in seed ecology and biology, propagation science, germplasm storage, conservation genetics and restoration ecology. This research group has contributed significantly to conservation and restoration of Australian ecosystems, with major advances in understanding seed dormancy (including pioneering work in smoke germination technology). Prof Dixon's major contributions are in conservation biology of rare species, minesite and urban bushland ecological restoration, evolutionary processes and seed science.Professor Dixon has published in ecology, ecophysiology and conservation, with 233 peer-reviewed publications. Prof Dixon was instrumental in a 12 year program to discover a butenolide molecule responsible for eliciting smoke-like germination in seeds of Australian, agricultural and horticultural species resulting in the discovery of a completely new class of phytohormones. The work is being investigated in a number of areas including genetic control of butenolide-mediated expression; influence of the butenolide on GA expression in seeds; germination and vigour enhancement via the butenolide; ecological implications and natural abundance of the butenolide in non-fire soils.
Book prize event 6 Mar
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