Human influences on the evolution of maize

As a domesticated plant, maize has adapted to conditions in an environment shaped by humans. Thanks to its agricultural importance and longstanding genetic model, there is a wealth of data on both genotype and phenotype that can be used to understand how this adaptation occurred and is still occurring.

Plant traits and ecological processes under climate change

Jennifer Funk studies how plant traits influence ecological processes including drought response, plant invasion, and ecological restoration. Students involved in this work would engage in greenhouse and field projects, with coupled physiological and community-level measurements in a variety of plant communities, from California grasslands to tropical forest understories. 

Ecological interactions in managed systems

Anthropogenic effects, notably, habitat conversion from natural to managed systems, can alter interactions between plants, insects, and microbial communities; but these effects on such complex systems are poorly understood. Bacteria and yeast that live in floral nectar affect pollinator visitation and influence floral characteristics.

Phenology of plants under changing thermal regimes

Around the world, climate change has caused differences in mean temperature and precipitation, but also variation in the scale and timing of climatic events. The timing of weather events, such as germination-triggering rains, the melting of snowpack, and freeze or thaw cycles often have major effects on organisms that must synchronize birth, growth, and reproduction with favorable conditions. The timing of these events -- phenology -- in turn affects how individuals interact with their abiotic and biotic environment.