Researcher biography

Discovery and functional characterization of novel genes and signals required for legume nodule development and the regulation of legume nodule numbers.

I am currently a member of the Centre for Integrative Legume Research (CILR) in the School of Agriculture and Food Sciences (SAFS) at the University of Queensland (UQ). I investigate the signalling interactions in legume nodulation. My work has contributed to the discovery of many new genes and signals, including novel CLE-peptide hormones having roles in regulating nodule numbers. Additional discoveries, including genes involved in nodule formation, nitrogen signalling or the regulation of nodule numbers, are also having a significant impact in the nodulation field.

I previously established the novel approach of using well-characterised mutant plants to investigate legume nodulation. This provided the first demonstration of a requirement for brassinosteroid hormones in nodulation and it established a central role for gibberellins in nodule development. It also provided important new insight into developmental overlaps existing between roots and nodules.

I have also made important contributions to the understanding of a completely new class of plant hormones, the strigolactones. This includes producing some of the initial articles reporting a role for strigolatones in shoot branching, with one article awarded the cover issue of Plant Physiology (Ferguson and Beveridge 2009). I also demonstrated that plants can transport quantities of auxin far in excess of their endogenous levels, which has significant implications as auxin and auxin transport are critical for all aspects of plant development.

Areas of research