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Keywords:

  • drought mortality;
  • evo-devo;
  • floral morphology;
  • forest genomics;
  • light signalling;
  • mycorrhizal community ecology;
  • plant evolution;
  • reproductive strategies

The autumn leaves are beginning to fall in Bristol, UK, and this acts as a seasonal reminder that a new cohort of undergraduate students will commence their studies at the University. The change in seasons also marks the occasion when it is my pleasure to welcome a new intake of Editors to New Phytologist.

The New Phytologist class of 2012 is made up of men and women who have outstanding reputations in their chosen fields of research. Perhaps the best way to introduce them to the community of scientists who publish with and read New Phytologist is to provide a short pen-portrait of their research interests. This is of course important because it is this very research expertise and related network of research scientists that they will use when editing manuscripts.

We start off rather close to Bristol but further north in the UK, where I imagine the autumnal colours are beginning to develop already. John Christie is based at the University of Glasgow (http://www.gla.ac.uk/researchinstitutes/biology/staff/johnchristie/) where he heads up a very active research group investigating light signalling in plants. His main interest is blue light signalling and he employs both biochemical and molecular genetic approaches to gain insights into this fundamentally important component of how plants perceive and respond to a changing environment.

Ian Dickie (Landcare Research, Lincoln, New Zealand http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/about/people/staff-details?id=ZGlja2llaQ) is an ecologist who is interested in mycorrhizal communities. New Phytologist has a long and distinguished tradition of publishing top quality mycorrhizal research. In fact, Ian has and does publish with the journal and to get a flavour of his interests it is instructive to look at a couple of these papers. In Klironomos et al. (2011), Ian and colleagues focus on community structure and in particular on the role of mycorrhizal associations in determining structure. Of course to address big questions such as this requires multidisciplinary approaches and Ian, as an ecologist, has embraced molecular approaches to understanding ecological patterns as exemplified by his paper ‘Co-invasion by Pinus and its mycorrhizal fungi’ (Dickie et al., 2010).

Next up is Lynda Delph (Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA). As will be obvious from her website (http://sites.bio.indiana.edu/~delphlab/) and some nice papers published in New Phytologist recently (Delph & Wolf, 2005; Delph et al., 2011), Lynda is interested in evolution and in particular the evolution of reproductive strategies in plants. This involves looking at morphology, genetics, physiology, life histories, how they are interrelated and how they affect fitness. As such Lynda brings considerable breadth of expertise as her work extends from the laboratory to the field. Remaining in North America but changing the focus to trees and forests our next new colleague on the New Phytologist Editorial Board is Andrew Groover from the USDA Forest Service and the University of California, Davis, CA, USA (http://www.fs.fed.us/psw/programs/cb/staff/agroover/). Interestingly, Andrew, whose work focuses on growth and development of forest trees, also has an interest in evolution and specifically the evolution of wood formation. This of course links very nicely with his interest in the role of the vascular cambium in wood formation. A good overview of his research interests can be gained by consulting an authoritative Tansley review he published in 2010 (Spicer & Groover, 2010). Like Ian, Andrew's work relies heavily on genomics and in Brunner et al. (2007) he outlined what this approach had to offer to forest and tree scientists.

From Harvard University (Cambridge, MA, USA) I am very pleased to welcome Elena Kramer into the New Phytologist family. Elena is also an evolutionary biologist and her appointment, in addition to Lynda and Andrew, serves to highlight the continued importance of publishing the best evolutionary plant, fungal and tree biology in New Phytologist. Inspection of Elena's website (http://www.oeb.harvard.edu/faculty/kramer/Site/Home.html) and recent Tansley review (Mathews & Kramer, 2012) will reveal that she is interested in the evolution of floral morphology. In fact, what Elena really brings to the journal is a major interest in evo-devo and as such there is a nice overlap with existing Editor, Liam Dolan (Oxford, UK). Among many exciting areas of contemporary plant biology work in evo-devo capitalizes on the availability of an increasing number of genome sequences and as such is beginning to crack open some previously intractable problems. Elena has and continues to make important contributions in this area and an exemplar publication would be her work on petal evolution (Sharma et al., 2011).

To conclude the class list of 2012 we have Nate McDowell from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, USA (http://climateresearch.lanl.gov/source/orgs/ees/climateresearch/members/mcdowell/mcdowell.shtml). Like many of the others it is perhaps easiest to introduce Nate through his publications and again, like others in this intake, Nate accepted an invitation to publish a New Phytologist Tansley review (McDowell et al., 2008). This turned out to be an extremely influential review (cited over 250 times to date). To me the title says it all ‘Mechanisms of plant survival and mortality during drought: why do some plants survive while others succumb to drought?’ – you know that this is going to be interesting. Clearly solving big questions such as this requires a big picture approach and Nate is very comfortable handling large data sets and modelling (see for example, Fisher et al., 2010). Nate has significant research overlaps with a number of existing Editors but perhaps mostly so with Richard Norby and as such adds significantly to our expertise on the effects of environmental change on plants and communities and underlines our commitment to publishing the results of cutting edge research in this very important area.

It really is great to welcome such a distinguished collection of new Editors on board and I hope that you, like me, will wish them success in this new venture.

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