Natural Genetic Variation in Plant Photosynthesis

Photosynthesis and genetics are essential, together providing the energy and the data with which life can be built, without either, life as we know it would not exist. Statements like this have been said so often that they have become clichéd, but this does not lessen their veracity and should not lessen their impact. For me cliché or not both photosynthesis and genetics are fascinatingly complex and fundamental, their complexity means there is lots to discover and their fundamentality gives such discoveries meaning.

My Research

My project bridges both of these topics, I am interested in natural genetic variation in plant photosynthesis and am using Arabidopsis thaliana as my model for this investigation. I work with a population of 350 Arabidopsis genotypes which were collected from all over the world, and as such represent a considerable portion of the diversity present in this species. I hope to screen this population for genetic diversity in photosynthesis and use this information to perform a genome wide association mapping study in order to find QTLs. Once such QTLs have been identified I hope to do more detailed genetic analysis in order to find the underlying genes or transcription factors which give rise to the variation in photosynthesis present in this population.

My Aims

The ultimate aim of my project is to find genes and describe genetic networks associated with photosynthesis. In addition to this main aim I hope that an understanding of the genetics of photosynthetic variation in the model organism Arabidopsis can also be used to improve crops and aid ecophysiological investigations into variation in photosynthesis in natural systems.

Two natural genotypes of Arabidopsis which differ greatly in their photosynthetic rates, green is high red is low, an example of the variation present in natural populations which will be used in this project as a tool to understand more about the regulation of photosynthesis, and come up with novel strategies on how it may be improved.

If you are interested in this topic to pursue either a masters or undergraduate thesis please contact me at Padraic Flood

Advisors: Mark Aarts, Jeremy Harbinson & Maarten Koornneef


PhD 2009-Present: Wageningen UR

Thesis Title: Genetic analysis of plant plasticity of photosynthetic capacity and its tolerance of a fluctuating environment.

BSc 2004-2008: Botany, University College Dublin

Thesis Title: Low O2 Effects on Plants.

Awards, Honours and Scholarships

  • Awarded the UCD Botany medal for coming first in class in final year, November 2008
  • Participant in the Science@Sea Integrated Marine Exploration Programme (IMEP) October  2008.
  • Marine Institute Bursary in phytoplankton analysis for June and July of 2008.
  • First in class in third year, received Fourth Year Science Scholarship (Botany) of €1000.
  • Undergraduate Research Experience & Knowledge Award (UREKA) for the summer of 2007. Project title “Evolution and Functional Significance of Guard Cell Chloroplasts in Plant Stomata”.
  • Tutor Award as a voluntary contributor to the UCD New Era program in March 2006.
  • Represented UCD and Ireland at the London International Youth Science Forum in summer 2005.