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Sandy Hetherington

Plant Evolutionary Biologist, The University of Edinburgh

The aim of my research is to understand the key innovations that enabled the conquest of the land by plants. In my group The Molecular Palaeobotany and Evolution Group we make the most of all available data to shed light on the origin and evolution of key innovations during plant evolution including evidence from fossils, studies of development from living species and comparative omics approaches. Using this interdisciplinary approach can shed light on the evolution of land plants in a way that would not be possible from isolated approaches alone.

Current research interests:
400 Million Years of Food Transport in Plants: unearthing the origin, diversity and genetic toolkit of vasculature. Plants require an internal conducting network to transport food and water around their bodies. This conducting network is termed vasculature and consists of two tissues, water conducting xylem and food conducting phloem. The acquisition of these tissues during plant evolution was key for the origin of trees and crops from tiny moss-like ancestors. Despite the importance of the phloem for transporting sugars throughout plants we know almost nothing about its evolution or how it may respond to climate change. The aim for my fellowship is to study the evolution of the phloem over its 400 million year history.


  • –present
    Plant evolutionary biologist, The University of Edinburgh