I lead a team of Kew scientists investigating character evolution in plants. We conduct research aimed at identifying and understanding (i) how different plant traits interact and evolve to generate the diversity of plant life, and (ii) how key characters influence, or are influenced by, global environmental change. The particular characters currently under study range across all levels of plant organization from the genomic to the whole plant level.
My own research is focused on genomic characters such as genome size, chromosome organization, and DNA repeats (see project: Uncovering the genomic diversity of plants) to (i) understand the origin, evolution and biological significance of the immense diversity of genomic characters across land plants, and (ii) determine how these characters impact at the whole plant level to influence how, when, and where plants grow and respond to global change.
I am also involved in the Plant and Fungal Trees of Life strategic 2020 output and collate genome size data for the Plant DNA C-values database.
The Plant DNA C-values database comprises the most comprehensive compilation of genome size data for land plants and algae available on the internet. The latest release 7.1 (April 2019) contains data for over 12,000 species.
- BSc (Hons), Univ. Bristol, 1985
- PhD, Univ. Bristol, 1990
Darwin Tree of Life
Sequencing the genomes of all eukaryotic species in the British Isles.
Plant and Fungal Trees of Life (PAFTOL)
Discovering and disseminating the evolutionary history of all plant and fungal genera.
Evolution and diversification of the palms and their seed traits
The palm tree-of-life as a key to palm seed conservation. Phylogenomic research in support of the Global Tree Seed Bank project.
Variation on a theme: evolutionary-developmental insights into the Asteraceae flower head.
Uncovering the genomic diversity of plants
Understanding how plants have diversified, the underlying mechanisms that promote genomic-level changes and the evolutionary and ecological consequences of this over time.
Global Tree Seed Bank Programme
Conserving some of the world’s rarest, endangered and useful tree and shrub species as well as conducting vital tree conservation research in order to retain a significant resource for humanity.
Guignard, M.S., Crawley, M.J., Kovalenko, D., Nichols, R.A., Trimmer, M., Leitch, A.R. & Leitch, I.J. (2019).
Interactions between plant genome size, nutrients and herbivory by rabbits, molluscs and insects on a temperate grassland.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 286: 20182619.
Hidalgo, O., Pellicer, J., Christenhusz, M.J.M., Schneider, H., Leitch, A.R. & Leitch, I.J. (2017).
Trends in Plant Science 22: 567-573.
Guignard, M.S., Nichols, R.A., Knell, R.J., Macdonald, A., Romila, C-A., Trimmer, M., Leitch, I.J. & Leitch, A.R. (2016).
Genome size and ploidy influence angiosperm species' biomass under nitrogen and phosphorus limitation.
New Phytologist 210: 1195-1206.
Ma, L., Hatlen, A., Kelly, L.J., Becher, H., Wang, W., Kovarik, A.R., Leitch, I.J., Leitch, A.R. (2015).
Angiosperms are unique among land plant lineages in the occurrence of key genes in the RNA-directed DNA Methylation (RdDM) pathway.
Genome Biology and Evolution 7: 2648-2662.
Dodsworth, S., Leitch, A.R. & Leitch, I.J. (2015).
Current Opinion in Genetics & Development 35: 73-78.
Kelly, L.J., Renny-Byfield, S., Pellicer, J., Macas, .J, Novák, P., Neumann, P., Lysak, M.A., Day, P.D., Berger, M., Fay, M.F., Nichols, R.A., Leitch, A.R. & Leitch, I.J. (2015).
Analysis of the giant genomes of Fritillaria (Liliaceae) indicates that a lack of DNA removal characterizes extreme expansions in genome size.
New Phytologist 208: 596-607.