PhD positions in Plant Evolutionary Ecophysiology, Genomics, and
The Mason and Goolsby labs in the Department of Biology at the
University of Central Florida are currently recruiting motivated,
curious, and enthusiastic PhD students to start in Fall 2019. Our labs
work closely together and research a wide variety of topics in plant
physiology, ecology, evolution, genetics, and biochemistry.
The Goolsby Lab is a plant evolutionary genomics and biochemistry lab.
We are interested in exploring the evolution of complex traits using a
combination of empirical and theoretical systems. I am interested in
recruiting graduate students for Fall 2019 who are interested in any
of the following areas:
(1) the evolution of heavy metal hyperaccumulation in plants,
especially wild sunflowers (Helianthus), which naturally accumulate
extremely high levels of normally toxic metals (nickel, cadmium, zinc,
etc). Metal accumulation and tolerance are both complex traits that
can be represented by dose-response curves known as function-valued
traits. I am particularly interested in the evolutionary history and
genomics of metal hyperaccumulation and tolerance as independent
(2) C4 and CAM are two photosynthetic pathways that confer elevated
resistance to heat and drought stress, respectively. Both pathways
have evolved from C3 ancestors independently several times in the
evolutionary history of plants. These pathways involve multiple
complex biochemical and anatomical adaptations that are generally
thought to be incompatible with one another. However, the Portulaca
lineage consists of plants which are capable of performing both C4 and
CAM photosynthesis within the same leaf. Our research in Portulaca is
concerned with mapping the evolutionary history of distinct anatomical
and biochemical changes associated with these two pathways within the
genus, as well as uncovering the genetic mechanisms responsible for
maintaining two functional co-occurring photosynthetic pathways.
(3) the development and improvement of phylogenetic comparative
methods and algorithms for studying these complex traits. In
particular, we are interested in developing methods for studying the
evolution of environmental and developmental plasticity,
high-dimensional complex traits, multivariate datasets with missing
data and multiple within-species observations, and comparative methods
for mixing continuous and discrete traits.
The Mason Lab is a plant evolutionary ecophysiology lab. We are
especially interested in the physiological and genetic mechanisms
underlying plant adaptation to diverse environmental pressures,
including abiotic factors like climate and soil fertility, and biotic
factors like herbivory and disease. All plants face physiological
trade-offs between growth, defense, and reproduction, and we seek to
understand the coordinated evolution of the traits that govern these
three core functions. Our research addresses a variety of questions
across multiple scales, from macroevolution to population
differentiation to within-individual plasticity, as well as in
multiple systems, from crops to wild herbs and woody plants. In
particular, for students interested in joining the lab for Fall 2019,
I am especially interested in recruiting students who are interested
in any of the following topics (listed in no particular order):
(1) core plant ecophysiology, especially the evolution of gas exchange
physiology and water/nutrient relations, especially in the context of
function-valued trait evolution and adaptation to diverse
environments. Wild sunflower (Helianthus) would be a highly suitable
system for this, but I am open to other systems as well.
(2) the evolution, ecology, genetic architecture, and applied utility
of mycorrhizal symbiosis, especially in crop and wild sunflowers
(Helianthus) given ongoing work in the lab, but open to expanding into
other systems as well.
(3) the physiological and metabolomic impacts of polyploidy in
sunflowers (Helianthus) and the broader Asteraceae using both
comparative and manipulative approaches.
(4) the genetic architecture of chemical defense inducibility under
attack from insects and fungal pathogens. This would be highly
suitable to wild and crop sunflower (Helianthus), but Iขm open to
expanding into other systems as well.
(5) the role of floral morphological and chemical variation in
determining pollinator visitation and/or pest and pathogen resistance,
in both crop and wild sunflowers (Helianthus).
(6) the evolution of leaf chemical defenses in relation to the leaf
economics spectrum in temperate woody trees and shrubs.
(7) plant phytochemistry, broadly defined. I find variation in plant
secondary metabolism fascinating and would be interested in questions
in a wide variety of systems and.
Interested students should contact either Chase Mason or Eric Goolsby
(or both) to discuss research interests before applying to the
Department of Biology graduate program
(https://biology.cos.ucf.edu/graduate-program/), which has a deadline
of January 15th. The Department of Biology provides teaching
assistantships, tuition waivers, and health insurance, and a variety
of competitive university fellowships are also available. The
University of Central Florida is the second largest university in the
United States, with an enrollment of 66,000 students. Over the past
two decades, UCF has undergone a dramatic expansion and development
into a modern R1 university. UCF is currently making major investments
in research, including hiring more than 200 new tenure-track faculty
and increasing graduate program enrollment by 25% over the next few
years. UCF is an equal opportunity, equal access, and affirmative