plants growing in pots

Plant Science research at the University of Liverpool

Plant Science research has a long history at Liverpool. The original Botany Department played a role in the first stages of the Flora Europaea project, and the late Tony Bradshaw undertook pioneering work at Liverpool on plant evolutionary biology and its applications to land restoration. Today, Liverpool plant scientists undertake their research on the Liverpool main campus, Leahurst and Ness Botanic Gardens.

Study organisms include various photosynthetic bacteria and algae, Arabidopsis, barley, rice, a range of vegetable crops (with a special focus on Brassica), various Kalanchoë species, and natural assemblages of species in grassland and riparian habitats. Furthermore, plant science-related research at Liverpool also encompasses the organisms that live on and around these plants, including the soil microbiome and the animals that depend on plant communities.

Researchers investigate both fundamental and applied aspects of the biology and ecology of these study organisms, with a particular focus on the mechanisms used by these organisms to sense and the respond to their environments, including long term adaptation to climate change.  The practical approaches employed by the group span from the structural biology of cyanobacterial photosynthetic complexes and carboxysomes, to functional genomics approaches for the dissection of higher plant photosynthetic adaptations and developmental processes, molecular modelling of complex systems, ecological and evolutionary approaches to understanding the functioning and adaptation of plants and their associated organisms in natural and semi-natural habitats, and accelerated crop molecular breeding strategies that aim to aid in humanity’s response to the global food security crisis. 

An area of particular focus centres on enhancing photosynthesis through studies on improving the efficiency of light harvesting and CO2 fixation. Currently, members of the research teams are from 10 countries within the EU and further afield.  Our visiting researchers range from international PhD students to senior academic staff, sponsored either by their own or the UK government.  Recent visitors have included scientists from China, Brazil, Finland, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Kuwait, Iraq, USA, India, and Bangladesh. 

Staff are predominantly based in the Biosciences Building, which provides all of the facilities of a major, modern biosciences research centre. The plant scientists benefit from state-of-the-art transgenic glasshouse facilities that were expanded in early 2019, climate-controlled growth rooms and chambers, and specialist systems for gas exchange and luciferase and delayed fluorescence imaging. In addition, the group benefits from core facilities encompassing the latest ‘omics, structural, computational and imaging technologies housed in the Centres for Genomic Research, Proteome Research, Metabolomics Research, and Cell Imaging, the GeneMill Synthetic Biology Lab, Barkla X-Ray Laboratory of Biophysics, the Computational Biology Facility and the NMR Centre for Structural Biology.

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