Why roots?

Root systems are an important part of plants. Roots provide physical support, access to water, nutrients, and habitat for unique symbiotic associations necessary for plant survival. Their function can add up to 40% of the total productivity of a forest and surpass the return of nutrients to the soil when compared to aboveground organs. 

The research at the T.R.E.E Lab focuses on two main topics: describe the diversity of root adaptations in vascular plants form a morphological, anatomical and functional perspective, and explore the evolutionary pathways that allow root systems to diversify and adapt to contrasting habitats. Our goal is to include roots as a central component in ecology and make root ecology a stand-alone field in terrestrial ecology.

Our lab employees a holistic approach integrating filed work with modern lab techniques. Most of the exploratory work requires trips to different ecosystem with an emphasis in tropical areas. Current projects include sampling in Amazonian forests, mangrove areas in South Florida and the use of botanical collections in the United States and countries abroad. In the lab, we work with molecular tools that describe the microbial communities associated with roots, microscopy tools to describe the internal tissue in roots, and image analysis to describe the morphology of root systems. Moreover, we use intensively phylogenetic approaches to understand the evolutionary mechanisms that explain the current diversity in root form, function and symbiotic relationships.