Ramona L. Walls
Post-doctoral Research Associate, New York Botanical GardenPh.D., Stony Brook University
Stony Brook, New York, USA (2009)
Form, function, and phylogeny: Angiosperm leaf trait evolution with a case study in the genus Dioscorea
Expertise: Plant ontology, ecology and systematics of Mexican Dioscorea, plant ecophysiology, leaf trait evolution
My goal as a scientist is to help understand and explain plant diversity. I am especially interested in tropical plant diversity and how environmental variation contributes to diversity. The majority of my work has focused on leaf traits such as size, shape, venation patterns, and stomatal characteristics. I study how variation in those traits relates to leaf function and thereby to the environment, using a combination of techniques from molecular systematics, phylogenetic comparative analysis, plant physiology and anatomy, and geographic information systems.At the New York Botanical Garden, I work as a curator of the Plant Ontology (http://plantontology.org). The Plant Ontology is a structured vocabulary for plant structures as well plant growth and developmental stages. It provides standardized definitions of terms, relationships among terms, and links to annotations for genes associated with each term. The main purpose of the Plant Ontology is to facilitate cross database querying and to foster consistent use of vocabulary in annotation. In addition, the Plant Ontology provides a novel teaching tool that can be used as a reference guide to various plant structures and known growth and development landmarks in a the lifecycles of plants. My work focuses on re-structuring the plant ontology, including revising definitions and adding new terms to accommodate non-angiosperm plants.