Botanical Evolution & Ecomorphology

Studying plant structure–function dynamics through deep time and under global change

Research mission

The BotanEE Lab is based in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at The University of Tennessee. The lab focuses on the diverse ways that plants build their bodies and how they function. We place this in an evolutionary context to examine how complex structures evolve across deep time. Our primary study system are the ferns given their species richness, ecological and phenotypic diversity, and dynamic evolutionary history. Beyond research, we have developed the PlAnTS initiative (Plant Awareness Through SciComm) focused on applying our knowledge and expertise to communicate science to the broader community.

Why our work matters

Earth is defined by biodiversity. In order to understand the origin and evolution of life on our planet, and us as a species, it is imperative to ask how and why biodiversity evolves. We are currently in a biodiversity crisis, where organisms are extirpated faster than we can identify them. More than only categorizing species, it is imperative to understand how they work. Our focus on the functional implications of diverse traits is foundational for understanding biodiversity in order to help conserve it. Moreover, discovering unknown plant form-function relationships can help inspire bio-mimetic designs and sustainable engineering. The paths to novel insights, new technologies, and innovative breakthroughs are often indirect; in the BotanEE lab we place great value on the study of foundational science in our quest for scientific discoveries.

Our core values

The fundamental set of principles that guide our communities’ projects, activities, behavior, and decisions:

1. An appreciation for plants as organisms.

2. Intellectual curiosity and continuous learning.

3. Passion for education and outreach.

4. Commitment to making science a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive space.