Predicting and assessing complex plant-environment interactions


Plant-Environmental Interactions: The Kinmonth lab studies how plants sense and respond to their environment. This work is important for helping farmers and natural resource managers plan for the future. On-going projects include the following:

  • Plants sense day length?! What?! Why? If you live away from the equator where there are clear seasons, you may have noticed that some plants flower only when the days get longer in summer while others flower once the days get shorter. Some plants use day length and/or other environmental features like length of winter as cues to transition to important life stages like reproduction. But not all plants sense these things, nor sense them the same way. The Kinmonth lab works to answer the following: are there specific climate features that lead to these different sensitivities?
  • Flowering time in a high [CO2] world. Carbon dioxide is increasing in the atmosphere at a rate not seen for thousands of years. It is more than twice what plants were experiencing 20,000 years ago. As carbon dioxide is made into sugars by plants through photosynthesis and used for their food, how does having much more of it around affect them? The Kinmonth lab works to understand why more [CO2] in the atmosphere causes some plants, but not others, to change when they flower.

Research in Education: Dr. Kinmonth is interested in improving student confidence, resiliency, and critical thinking abilities inside the classroom and as they move into their careers. On-going projects include the following:

  • Growth-based mindset. The mind is malleable and individuals have a great capacity to learn, grow, and change. However, sometimes we feel like there is something “different” or “wrong” about us that makes us not cut out for a certain class or career, even if we enjoy it. Dr. Kinmonth works with Dr. Kinsey Simone in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction at Tennessee Tech to ask whether adjusting course presentation and grading to align with a growth-based mindset improves students’ confidence in and perceptions of biology courses.