Skip main navigation

Plant science

Professor Barbara Mable explores the opportunities within plant science
5.1
BARBARA MABLE: I’m Professor Barbara Mable I’m in the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, here at the University of Glasgow. I work on both plants and animals, but I’m generally interested in evolutionary genetics. And I have projects that are mostly involved with understanding how organisms adapt to environmental change. The evolutionary biology encompasses a lot of different things. So we’re primarily interested in understanding historical relationships among organisms, and understanding how organisms change in response to their environment. And so, that can include both abiotic conditions, so changes in temperature and climate, both locally and globally, and interactions with other organisms, so changes in the biotic context that they’re in. So plants are probably under-appreciated in a lot of programmes.
49.9
So a lot of zoology students coming in, and think they don’t have to know anything about plants, because animals is what they’re interested in. But, of course, ecosystems are composed of interactions between microbes, plants, and animals. And so, you need to understand the integration of them if you’re going to understand ecological and evolutionary processes. So they’re also used a lot for biotechnology, because you can grow them quickly. You can manipulate them a lot more than animals. So they have a really central role. So a lot of plant research is focused on molecular components. But we’re the only group that works on kind of whole-organism ecological interactions, but that’s changing.
89.5
So a lot of the plant scientists who are interested in biochemistry are now more interested in how processes change in response to the environment. And so, that’s where ecology and evolution is really starting to make a difference, overall. There’s a lot of potential careers for someone who knows about plants. So there’s careers in biotechnology, because a lot of the work in biotechnology is focused on plants. There would be careers in agriculture– crop breeding, or improving our crops for sustainable agriculture. There’s careers in environmental monitoring, so ecological consultants have to do a lot of surveys. If you’re doing an environmental survey, you need to know about the plant community, as well as the animals in an environment.
129
There’s jobs in academia, and doing research. And so there’s quite a wide opportunity.

In the next couple of steps we’ll look at some of the diverse areas within life science. We start with ‘plant science’ – a sometimes overlooked but hugely important area. In each subject ‘step’ we give you links to help you explore these subjects further so why not take some time to look through them.

This article is from the free online

So You Want to Study Life Science?

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education