Christopher Muir

Assistant Professor of Botany

Assistant Professor of Botany
PhD 2013, Indiana University

Contact Information

Link to Laboratory Site »

Graduate Faculty Memberships

Research Interests

  • Plant evolution
  • Plant ecophysiology
  • Biostatistics

Research Statement

Organisms are functionally constrained by physical and chemical laws, yet natural selection has produced seemingly endless forms within these fundamental limits. My lab integrates ecophysiology and evolution to discover how plants work and why they evolved to work that way. Ecophysiologists have discovered numerous tradeoffs based on physical and chemical laws that organisms must confront in order to survive and reproduce, and such tradeoffs are the theoretical foundation for most evolutionary models. Despite this seemingly natural integration between disciplines, an evolutionary ecophysiology (‘evo-phys’) synthesis has largely eluded us. The result is that we know little about the role of physiological tradeoffs in adaptive evolution, even though such tradeoffs are widely assumed to be a major source of natural selection.

Understanding physiological tradeoffs can teach us a lot about evolution, but only if we get the mechanistic details correct. I use leaves as a model organ to study evolutionary physiology because they are the primary photosynthetic organ in most plants, form a key interface between plants and their environment, and we know a lot about the mechanistic details of how leaves function under different environmental conditions. Leaf anatomy and physiology of land plants are constrained by the need to intercept light, supply CO2 to chloroplasts, conserve water, and fend off herbivores. Despite these shared physical constraints, leaf structure and physiology varies enormously. I study the processes that maintain physiological variation from micro- to macroevolutionary scales using multiple empirical systems suited to address different questions.

Recent Publications

Muir CD. 2019. Is amphistomy an adaptation to high light? Optimality models of stomatal traits along light gradients. Integrative & Comparative Biology 59: 571–584.

Muir CD. 2018. Light and growth form interact to shape stomatal ratio among British angiosperms. New Phytologist 218: 242-52.

Muir CD & AL Angert. 2017. Grow with the flow: a latitudinal cline in physiology is associated with more variable precipitation in Erythranthe cardinalis. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 30: 2189-203.

Muir CD, MÀ Conesa, EJ Roldán, A Molins, J Galmés. 2017. Weak coordination between leaf structure and function among closely related tomato species. New Phytologist 213: 1642-53.

Muir CD & M Thomas-Huebner. 2015. Constraint around quarter- power allometric scaling in wild tomatoes (Solanum sect. Lycopersicon; Solanaceae). The American Naturalist 186: 421-33.

Muir CD. 2015. Making pore choices: repeated regime shifts in stomatal ratio. Proc R Soc B 282: 20151498.