Almost all plants have surface hairs, known as trichomes. In most species they are associated with protection against pests, water loss or UV. However some plants have hairs that are too short or sparse to be protective, including several snapdragon (Antirrhinum) species from dry mountain regions. Because alpine snapdragons have had the chance to increase the density or length of their hairs by exchanging genes with their lowland sisters, we propose that short, sparse hairs adapt plants to dry or cold environments. This project aims to test this idea and to find out what short hairs do that makes them so important. It could suggest whether hairs traits are targets in breeding crops for colder, more arid environments.
Plants differing only for the presence or absence of trichomes (isogenic lines), can be used to test, for example, whether hairs function in dew harvesting, or nucleate ice formation away from the plant surface so the released latent heat prevents internal freezing. This will provide training in both molecular genetics and in aspects of physics/engineering, including environmental scanning electron microscopy. Because hair characters vary in wild snapdragon populations you can also address the question at a much larger scale—for example whether the presence of a hair character correlates with a particular climatic variable. This will provide training in field-work, with colleagues in Spain and Portugal, and in use of geographical information systems (GIS) and ecological modelling with experts from Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.
The School of Biological Sciences is committed to Equality & Diversity: https://www.ed.ac.uk/biology/equality-and-diversity
The “Institution Website” button will take you to our online Application Checklist. From here you can formally apply online. This checklist also provides a link to EASTBIO - how to apply web page. You must follow the Application Checklist and EASTBIO guidance carefully, in particular ensuring you complete all the EASTBIO requirements, and use /upload relevant EASTBIO forms to your online application.