Why are scientists interested in evolution of a single plant?

Valeria Shiposha, a junior researcher at the Herbarium Laboratory at the TSU Biological Institute, was the only Russian scientist to take part in the 4th International Brachypodium Conference in Spain. The conference was devoted to the study of the cereal Brachypodium (also known as false brome grass). This model plant has not been cultivated and therefore can throw light on the evolution of all cereals. In the global aspect, these data will help solve the problem of the shortage of food resources on the planet.

Valeria Shiposha studies this plant under the collaboration between TSU and the Polytechnic School of Huesca at the University of Zaragoza (Spain). Her dissertation, devoted to the study of Brachypodium, is being carried out under dual guidance: on the Russian side she is supervised by TSU professor Marina Olonova, and from the Spanish side she is supervised by Professor Pilar Catalan.

Groups of scientists all over the world are studying different aspects of Brachypodium: what specific genes are responsible for, what possible genetic variations of populations are, cryptic species of the genus, ploidy, phylogeography, phylogeny, and other issues. Studying the evolutionary process in monocotyledonous plants will make it possible to understand which genes are responsible, for example, for adapting a shortcut to drought, to abundant moisture, or to other growing conditions, which will further help to combat the problem of reduced food resources on the planet.

– The topic of my thesis work is “Brachypodium P. Beauv. on the Territory of Eurasia: Systematics, Geography, Biodiversity, and Phylogeny”. Due to the fact that the genus has been studied quite heterogeneously, population-genetic study was conducted on the Iberian Peninsula for annual Brachypodium species because they are not represented in Russia, – Valeria Shiposha says about her dissertation work. – The second part of the work is focused on perennial species of the complex Brachypodium pinnatum and B. sylvaticum.

In Russia, she studied the phenotypic diversity of perennial species of Brachypodium, and also revealed their ecological and climatic niches. In addition, she has built forecast maps: where in theory can perennial species of the genus grow, which bioclimatic factors are favorable for distribution, and which are limiting.

– For example, B. sylvaticum in Europe is widespread, and in North America, it is an invasive species (uncharacteristic for this flora, but actively exciting to the territory, influencing biological diversity). In several areas in the Russian Federation, it is recognized as a relic of the tertiary nemoral flora and is listed in the Red Book.

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