Genomic Discovery Unearths New Theories on Plant Evolution

Norm Wickett, Ph.D.
Conservation Scientist, Genomics and Bioinformatics
Chicago Botanic Garden

I have always been fascinated by natural history and evolution. As a conservation scientist in genomics and bioinformatics at the Chicago Botanic Garden, I work to understand how plants – aquatic and terrestrial – all fit together in the biological tree of life. We have known for quite some time that all plants on land share a common ancestor with green algae, but there has been some debate as to what form of algae is the closest relative, and how some of the major groups of land plants are related to each other.

Over the past four years, I collaborated with an international team of researchers on a study examining how major forms of land plants are related to each other and to aquatic green algae. Together, we gathered an enormous amount of genetic data on 103 plants and developed computer-based tools that allow us to apply advanced DNA sequencing technologies to biodiversity research. These tools helped us understand our own data and uncover some exciting results – and we believe our analysis techniques can be scaled up to help scientists make sense of even larger data sets.

Last week, our results —> Read More Here


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