Dr. Elizabeth Ainsworth
Rising population size, changes in land-use, introduction of novel and invasive pests and diseases, and global changes in climate and atmospheric composition pose significant challenges to maintaining and improving future agricultural production and global food supply. Two global changes that directly affect crop productivity are rising carbon dioxide concentration ([CO2]) and rising tropospheric ozone concentration ([O3]). While elevated [CO2] directly stimulates photosynthesis in C3 crops, rising tropospheric [O3] negatively impacts photosynthesis and subsequent growth and production. My research applies physiological, biochemical, genomic and imaging tools to understand the mechanisms of plant responses to climate change.
Current areas of research focus include understanding the dynamics of leaf growth and development, investigation of antioxidant metabolism in response to global change, and unraveling the physiological and molecular basis for intraspecific variation in plant responses to climate change. Much of our research uses Free Air Concentration Enrichment (FACE) facilities, where plants are grown under atmospheric conditions forecast for later this century under completely open air conditions. Our research aims to identify key mechanisms by which plants respond to specific elements of climate change, and use those to maximize crop production in the future.