A little about ourselves
Professor Tracy Lawson
Director, Plant Phenomics Research Facility, University of Essex
Director of Impact, Research Group Convenor (Plant Productivity)
Director, Essex Plant Innovation Centre (EPIC)
Here, at the Plant Physiology lab, Essex, our research focuses on photosynthesis, stomatal behaviour, and water use efficiency at the leaf and whole plant level. We are particularly interested in the impact the dynamic environment has on these processes. Recent work includes the development of lighting technologies that mimic the natural environment in order to assess the influence of diel irradiance regimes on stomata and assimilation rate dynamics. An important part of our research is the development of new tools and approaches for plant phenotyping, for example we developed the first imaging system for screening plant water use efficiency (see McAusland et al. (2013).
Stomatal physiology - Climate change and increasing global population is intensifying the need to find suitable crop plants for sustainable food and fuel production for future generations. Drought conditions and reduced water availability severely impact plant productivity and are considered a global threat to world food security. Stomata and their function therefore play a central role in determining the amount of carbon gained per unit water lost, known as plant “water use efficiency” and consequently have significant implications for crop yields, as well as global hydrological and carbon cycles. I am therefore interested in stomatal control of CO2 assimilation and the relation between mesophyll photosynthesis and stomatal behaviour and the signalling pathways that link these two fundamental processes. I also research the role of guard cell chloroplasts in stomatal function and how guard cell photosynthesis may provide a functional link between mesophyll photosynthesis and guard cell aperture.
We have expertise in Infra-red gas exchange analysis (for determining rates of photosynthesis and transpiration) and chlorophyll fluorescence techniques (for quantifying light use and photosynthetic efficiency). We also have a strong background in measuring stomatal conductance, water use efficiency and water potential in crops, as well as monitoring the effects of abiotic factors on stomatal physiology and impacts on photosynthesis. We are experts in monitoring plant responses to the natural environment using a range of laboratory and field techniques.