Revolutionary progress in understanding plant biology is being driven through advances in DNA sequencing technology. Carnegie plant scientists have played a key role in the sequencing and genome annotation efforts of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana and the soil alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Now that many genomes from algae to mosses and trees are publicly available, this information can be mined using bioinformatics to build models to understand gene function and ultimately for designing plants for a wide spectrum of applications.

 Carnegie researchers have pioneered a genome-wide gene association network Aranet that can assign functions to genes for which no function had previously been assigned (to date about 50% of the plant genome) by their associations with genes of known function. They are also building protein interaction and metabolic pathway networks in plants to systematically identify signaling and metabolic pathways and relationships among these pathways.

Investigators also develop and apply mining methods to capture biological knowledge about the function of plant genes and maintain and improve the Arabidopsis genome annotation and provide online bioinformatics tools for use by plant biologists worldwide.Other researchers use algal genomes to identify genes that are specific to the green lineage, the so-called Greencut, to uncover the yet unknown regulatory systems critical for photosynthesis.

The objective of this computational work is to understand the evolution of multicellularity and sexual reproduction in the plant lineage, and the evolution of plant- specific characters, and the interactions between plants and other organisms.

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An artist's conception courtesy of HOK.
October 3, 2022

Pasadena, CA—The state of California designated $20 million in its 2023 budget to help fund a new state-of-the-art Carnegie research facility in Pasadena where scientists will cross disciplinary boundaries to tackle the greatest climate challenges facing humanity today.  

Representing a proactive investment in the fight against climate change, the 135,000-square-foot structure is designed to house 200 new and relocated staff who will comprise Carnegie’s newly launched Division of Biosphere Sciences and Engineering. There, a diverse array of experts will draw on Carnegie’s long-standing expertise in exploring the natural world across scales to probe the

Artwork is courtesy of Mark Belan | artscistudios.com.
September 22, 2022

Palo Alto, CA—Climate change and habitat destruction may have already caused the loss of more than one-tenth of the world’s terrestrial genetic diversity, according to new research led by Carnegie’s Moises Exposito-Alonso and published in Science. This means that it may already be too late to meet the United Nations’ proposed target, announced last year, of protecting 90 percent of genetic diversity for every species by 2030, and that we have to act fast to prevent further losses.

Several hundred species of animals and plants have gone extinct in the industrialized age and human activity has impacted or shrunk half of Earth’s ecosystems, affecting

Tidestromia oblongifolia in winter, Death Valley National Park, CA, USA, Photo b
August 23, 2022

Palo Alto, CA— Water is inextricably linked to our understanding of life—it makes up most of our planet’s surface and organisms across the tree of life depend on it to function. Yet the ability to survive extremely dry conditions for long periods is crucial to the life cycles of many species—including in plants, which can reproduce from desiccated pollen grains and grow from dried-out seeds.

“There are some desert plants and micro-animals, like tardigrades, which can lose up to 90 percent of their water and resume normal biological function within hours of being rehydrated. We want to know how they do it,” said Carnegie’s Sue Rhee, who was

Stephanie Hampton
August 12, 2022

Washington, DC— Aquatic ecologist Stephanie Hampton joined Carnegie as Deputy Director of Carnegie’s newly launched Division of Biosphere Sciences and Engineering at the end of July. She arrived from the National Science Foundation, where she was the director of the Division of Environmental Biology. She was also a professor and the former director of an interdisciplinary environmental research center at Washington State University.

“Stephanie’s experience leading the primary funder of basic ecological and evolutionary research in the U.S. has given her a 10-thousand-foot view of the field, which will help us as we implement a new, cross-disciplinary vision

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Ana Bonaca is Staff Member at Carnegie Observatories. Her specialty is stellar dynamics and her research aims to uncover the structure and evolution of our galaxy, the Milky Way, especially the dark matter halo that surrounds it. In her research, she uses space- and ground-based telescopes to measure the motions of stars, and constructs numerical experiments to discover how dark matter affected them.

She arrived in September 2021 from Harvard University where she held a prestigious Institute for Theory and Computation Fellowship. 

Bonaca studies how the uneven pull of our galaxy’s gravity affects objects called globular clusters—spheres made up of a million

Peter Gao's research interests include planetary atmospheres; exoplanet characterization; planet formation and evolution; atmosphere-surface-interior interactions; astrobiology; habitability; biosignatures; numerical modeling.

His arrival in September 2021 continued Carnegie's longstanding tradition excellence in exoplanet discovery and research, which is crucial as the field prepares for an onslaught of new data about exoplanetary atmospheres when the next generation of telescopes come online.

Gao has been a part of several exploratory teams that investigated sulfuric acid clouds on Venus, methane on Mars, and the atmospheric hazes of Pluto. He also

Anne Pommier's research is dedicated to understanding how terrestrial planets work, especially the role of silicate and metallic melts in planetary interiors, from the scale of volcanic magma reservoirs to core-scale and planetary-scale processes.

She joined Carnegie in July 2021 from U.C. San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where she investigated the evolution and structure of planetary interiors, including our own Earth and its Moon, as well as Mars, Mercury, and the moon Ganymede.

Pommier’s experimental petrology and mineral physics work are an excellent addition to Carnegie’s longstanding leadership in lab-based mimicry of the

Johanna Teske became the first new staff member to join Carnegie’s newly named Earth and Planets Laboratory (EPL) in Washington, D.C., on September 1, 2020. She has been a NASA Hubble Fellow at the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, CA, since 2018. From 2014 to 2017 she was the Carnegie Origins Postdoctoral Fellow—a joint position between Carnegie’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (now part of EPL) and the Carnegie Observatories.

Teske is interested in the diversity in exoplanet compositions and the origins of that diversity. She uses observations to estimate exoplanet interior and atmospheric compositions, and the chemical environments of their formation