The Secret Life of Plants

Available to watch on-demand now

Plants have long been cast as the backdrop to the brassier, noisier human and animal world. But new research is revealing another side of our botanical friends, and this time it's a starring role. What have they been up to while we were looking elsewhere?

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DatesAvailable to watch on-demand now
Talks structure30 minute lecture0 minute Q&A

3 talks in this Garden Series



Science & Nature
Why are flowers a biological mystery?

We could not exist without flowering plants, but to this date researchers cannot explain where they came from. Why did Darwin describe the origin of flowering plants as an “abominable mystery”? Read more

Prof. Richard Buggs

Queen Mary University

Richard Buggs is currently Senior Research Leader (Plant Health & Adaptation) at Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, and Professor of Evolutionary Genomics at Queen Mary, University of London.

He is an evolutionary biologist and his research group analyses DNA sequences to understand how plants evolve in nature. His group designs strategies to accelerate plant evolution in response to climate change and new pests and pathogens. Richard has published on a variety of evolutionary processes including: natural selection, speciation, hybridisation and whole genome duplication. His largest research programme is on the genetic basis of ash tree resistance to ash dieback and the emerald ash borer.

The birch species Betula buggsii is named after him.

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Science & Nature
How did fungi help create life as we know it?

Plants wouldn’t have made it out of the water 450 million years ago if not for their collaboration with fungi. They are an ancient and extraordinary kingdom that exists everywhere. But if fungi are so essential, why are they so easy to miss? Read more

Prof Katie Field

Sheffield University

Prof. Katie has always been fascinated in how plants, animals and microbes all come together to form the complex ecosystems around us today. Her research spans 500 million years of land plant evolution, focusing on the interactions between plants and the soil around them, including the myriad of microorganisms that inhabit the below-ground environment.

In particular, she is interested in the role of soil fungi in plant nutrition in ancient and modern ecosystems, including the role of soil fungi in helping plants get a foothold on land when they started making the transition from an aquatic to terrestrial existence in the Early Devonian.

Outside the office, you will likely find her walking her two dogs around Sheffield and the nearby Peak District. Katie is also a creative mind and likes to find time to throw on the potter's wheel whenever she can.

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Science & Nature
Do plants have something to say?

We often think of plants as organisms left on their own to survive. Seemingly still and unable to make any noise they managed to fight with the rollercoaster of evolution. But plants talk to each other. So, what do they talk about? Read more

Dr Jordan Dowell

University of California, Davis

Dr Jordan Dowell works on describing the evolution and ecology of how plants deal with pests, pathogens, and more importantly each other.

A core focus of his work has been describing the genetics underlying plant chemical diversity, and how a subset of this diversity is used to convey information about pests and pathogens to neighbouring plants through volatile compounds, or compounds that can float through the air under normal conditions.

In furthering our understanding of plant interactions, Dr Dowell hopes to tap into this plant communication network to increase sustainable agriculture by getting plants the information they need quickly to protect themselves.

Jordan is originally from Las Vegas, Nevada where he worked in the nightlight industry before heading back to academia after his bachelors. Outside the office, you will likely find him camping and hiking around the USA. His friends would probably describe him as outgoing and passionate.

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