Professor Blackman in the field with sunflowers

Research Expertise and Interest

evolution, adaptation, domestication, phenotypic plasticity, flowering time, evo-devo, genomics, plant biology

Research Description

Benjamin Blackman is an associate professor in the Department of Plant and Microbiol Biology.  His research seeks to understand how plant development and its ability to respond to changing environmental conditions evolve. Using a combination of molecular, genomic and field approaches to connect genes to traits and ecology, his research group aims to address fundamental questions about the genetics of adaptation, the evolution of development, and mechanisms of gene-environment interaction in two plant groups, sunflower and monkeyflower. Their work in these systems currently focuses on the environmental and circadian regulation of solar tracking movements by sunflower stems and of floret maturation in sunflower disks, transcriptomic and ancient DNA studies of sunflower domestication, and the ecological genetics of adaptation to local climates along environmental gradients.

In the News

How the monkeyflower gets its spots

The intricate spotted patterns dappling the bright blooms of the monkeyflower plant may be a delight to humans, but they also serve a key function for the plant. These patterns act as “bee landing pads,” attracting nearby pollinators to the flower and signaling the best approach to access the sweet nectar inside.

How sunflowers follow the sun

Sunflowers not only pivot to face the sun as it moves across the sky during the day, but they also rotate 180 degrees during the night to greet the morning sun.

Featured in the Media

Please note: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or positions of UC Berkeley.
May 13, 2020
Katherine J. Wu
It's like a friendly smile indicating safe harbor for pollinators, assistant plant and microbial biology professor Benjamin Blackman says about the "face" of a monkeyflower, which assures its own survival by attracting pollinators with its strikingly speckled petals. A scholar of evolutionary processes, he recently collaborated on a study that used a model developed by Alan Turing to confirm that a monkeyflower's patterns may be created by some of the same evolutionary processes that assure the viability of many flora and fauna, from seashells to zebras. "Pigmentation patterns are complex and ubiquitous in the natural world," Professor Blackman says. "This study tells us that a relatively simple system can give rise to this complexity." For more on this, see our press release from February at Berkeley News.
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