The Gatsby Plant Science small grants programme funds exceptional research projects that are unlikely to attract support from research councils or other funding agencies.
Grants are normally up to a maximum of £35K and can be for pump priming, for purchasing a key piece of equipment, or for developing community resources. Although small in cash value, these grants often launch major new research programmes and they are universally valued by the UK plant sciences research community.
Grant to Professor Dianne Edwards, University of Cardiff
Exploring diversity and disparity in early land vegetation
The pioneering plants that transformed land surfaces some 425 to 410 million years ago lacked leaves, seeds and roots and were essentially collections of green branching stems bearing simple sacs (sporangia) of fern-like spores. These plants eventually gave rise to club-mosses, horse-tails, ferns and flowering plants (tracheophytes). Their recognition as ancestral tracheophytes depends on their anatomy, which is very rarely preserved in plants preserved as films of coal. Fortunately, smouldering fires in late Silurian times produced very small fragments of charcoal, termed mesofossils, which on examination by scanning electron microscopy revealed cellular details of stems, sporangia and spores and showed that tissues in these simple cells broadly resemble those in tracheophytes today. However some specimens showed unique character combinations that hint at relationships with mosses and liverworts, long considered ancestral to the tracheophytes. Gatsby support will allow the detailed analysis of new fossils to elucidate diversity and evolutionary relationships as well as inferences on their physiology and reproductive biology. In addition it will facilitate research into even more enigmatic fossils that suggest that lichen-like organisms covered land surfaces long before the advent of the tracheophytes.