As an impact activity associated with my BBSRC grant 'PIN proteins and architectural diversification in plants' (BB/L00224811), I have worked with Dr Alison Murray (CUBG) and Prof Beverley Glover (CUBG and Plant Sciences Department, Cambridge University) to establish an evolution trail in the Cambridge University Botanic Garden.
The trail currently comprises a selection of plants chosen to represent key steps in plant evolution mapped out in the Garden with a handout to be used by undergraduates taking the 'evolution and behaviour' module that can be signed out from the Brookside entrance.
The trail handout can be downloaded here.
New interpretation boards to showcase the relevance of plants in the 'life before flowers' greenhouse have been designed and will be produced in 2016.
The trail conveys ideas about how plant life has changed over geological timescales from the time that tiny bryophyte-like plants first started to colonise land, through the establishment of the earliest vascular plant shooting systems to the radiation of today's dominant flowering plant flora.
The conquest of land by plants cooled the earth's climate, established the first soils, and provided the food and shelter that allowed animals to colonise land.
Recurring themes of plant interrelationships, plant adaptation to new environments and plants shaping their environment have great relevance to future challenges to humanity in the face of rapid population growth and climate change.