The Banta lab is focused on plant life history evolution and its ecological context. In other words, we are interested in the study of variation in the timing of important events in the life cycle of an organism, as well as variation in the investment made by the organism to the different parts of the life cycle.
Life history research has traditionally focused on animals. But plants are particularly interesting because they are sessile and must match their phenotype and phenology to their local environment. Thus the connection between habitat and phenotype is relatively straightforward, and there is great potential for local adaptation and intraspecific variation in life history traits.
Life history research has traditionally focused on phenotypes. Yet we need to understand the proximate (developmental, cellular, physiological, genetic, molecular) mechanisms accounting for variation in life histories in order to answer a host of longstanding ecological and evolutionary questions, and to inform and refine specific ecological and evolutionary models. Furthermore, life history variation also has short-term ecological consequences for communities, and therefore we believe it should be studied in a community ecology context.
Our work ties under-appreciated aspects of the study of life history together with a unique blend of ecology, evolution, and genomics. We also incorporate phenotypic plasticity into our research projects, because plants live in environments that fluctuate and change at many different scales (local, regional, landscape).