Integrative Animal and Plant Biology
To understand and exploit animal and plant biology requires knowledge of how biological processes function in an integrated and dynamic way within tissues and organisms. This enables us to address questions such as how growth and development is regulated; how animals and plants behave and adapt in response to a changing environment; and how such processes are affected by and impact on interactions between organisms. Transcending scales and methodologies from molecules to organisms, the ultimate aim of research in this theme is to integrate these layers into a unified picture of organismal, population and evolutionary biology. Students working within this theme benefit from training opportunities in bioimaging and image analysis, and in mathematical and computational approaches (see Transformative Technologies). Students also benefit from access to state-of-the-art analytical and ‘omics facilities and associated training. A key aim is to equip students to combine multiple methodologies to address important research questions.
- Developmental biology: Developmental patterning in animals and plants (also discussed under Plant and Crop Science) is central to their adaptation to and exploitation of environments. Research in this area aims to understand how genotype and environment influence cell fate, function and patterning to lead to the development of specific organs and tissues, and has applications in field such as crop improvement, stem cell biology and regenerative biology. Core research areas within the partnership include the application of innovative approaches to study and model the fundamental processes underpinning cell migration and differentiation in animal development and the evolution and genetic regulation of developmental patterns and body plan diversity. We also study the processes underpinning embryo development, animal regeneration through pluripotent stem cells and molecular mechanisms underpinning aging and neurogenesis.
- Physiology: Physiological processes such as cellular and molecular signalling, transport and metabolism are vital for the normal function of plants and animals. The interaction of these processes with factors such as nutrition, temperature and disease has a major impact on animal and plant health. Specific areas of interest include the role of ion channels and transporters in physiological processes and the development and application of biochemical, imaging and modelling approaches to investigate the interaction of cellular and metabolic processes with plant and animal health.
- Neuroscience and animal behaviour: Research into neuroscience aims to understand how the interplay of genes, cells, neurochemicals and circuits underpins sensation and cognition both in individuals and in social settings across a wide range of organisms, from flies to humans. We have expertise in using in vivo optogenetic tools to perturb neural circuits with precise temporal and spatial resolution, as well as methods to record cell activity using electrophysiology or imaging techniques. We also have strengths in monitoring and manipulating neurotransmitters using electrochemistry, genetics and pharmacology, allowing conclusions to be drawn about the precise brain mechanisms that contribute to arousal, motivational, sensorimotor and cognitive functions of an organism.