Research Interests

I enjoy exploring how a physiological process evolved into the process that is taught in textbooks. For example, the role of polar auxin transport on the development of the sporophyte body axis has been a passion since graduate school. Current experiments continue the classification of polar auxin transport in sporophytes and gametophyes since the current literature is not normalized, contains many gaps, and therefore, evolutionary generalizations cannot be drawn.

The movement of plants from the water to the land created the need for plants to become larger and erect in order to compete for light. This transition resulted in the evolution of vascular tissue, stomata, guard cells, and the cuticle. My goal is to examine these features across the extant plants to begin to fill in the evolutionary relationships between the physical changes and the physiological processes.

A recent interest of mine is examining fossil plants to help gain information about natural history and to shed insight into physiological evolutionary trends. Current work looks at lycopod and fern evolution in partnership with the Virginia Museum of Natural History, specifically with Alton Dooley.

Additional work has led into some reclamation work for a local quarry. We are currently examining ways to use moss to help with "greening" efforts.

My research goal is to use these projects as a training platform for undergraduates who are interested in research or who desire preparation for their graduate studies. All projects have the capacity to offer a broad research experience for undergraduates, including exposure to morphology, anatomy, molecular biology, bioinformatics, biochemistry, evolution, and physiology. Also, these projects have aspects that will require collaboration with other scientists, and this experience is one that many undergraduates do not get in traditional research internships and interactions. Developing research projects that ask broad questions give an undergraduate a research experience that teaches them scientific theory and critical thinking while they learn the basics of the scientific material. These projects are broad enough to allow a student to take them in directions that drive their interests as well as mine.

When you use non-model systems, like Marsilea vestita, you do not have the resources that model systems have. Therefore, you must develop a broad understanding of the organism prior to starting an experiment; this can be a daunting task the first time you are exposed to it. However, most students enjoy the challenge and find it exhilarating to be a true pioneer in research. At the undergraduate level, the final result is a well-rounded student who is able to enter any research lab with confidence because they have an overall understanding of organisms and the biology they present.

Recent Publications

  • Poli, DB. and Cooke, T. J. (in prep) Polar auxin transport in the moss Polytrichum ohioense: developmental regulation, environmental sensitivity, and evolutionary implications.
  • Bader, G. A., Piatkowski, B. T., Cooke, T.J. and Poli, DB. (in prep) Evolution of polar auxin transport in plant gametophytes.
  • Poli, DB., Klink, V., and Cooke, T. J. (in prep) The role of auxin on Marsilea vestita embryogenesis.
  • Vogel, S. I., Piatkowski, B. T., Dooley, A., and Poli, DB. Effects of Fire of Lycopodium. (submitted to Jeffersoniana, in review)
  • Poli, DB., Fleenor, M. C., and Rearick, M. Biology Ink: Using Tattooing to Make Integrated Connections. (submitted to American Biology Teacher, in review)
  • Fleenor, M. C., Poli, DB. and Rearick, M. Drawing on Popular Culture: Using Tattooing to Highlight Electro-mechanical Resonance. (submitted to The Physics Teacher, in review)
  • Poli, DB., Berenotto, C., Blankenship, S., Piatkowski, B., Bader, G. A., and Poore, M. (accepted for February 2012 issue) Bringing Evolution to a Technological Generation: A Case Study with SPORE. American Biology Teacher.
  • Poli, DB. (2011) Sex and the Scientific Method: Using Condoms to Engage College Students. American Biology Teacher 73 (6):348-352
  • Poli, DB. (2011)Teaching Cultural and Botanical Connections: Ethnobotany with Tea. American Biology Teacher 73 (4): 242.
  • Poli, DB. (2010) Bryology: We need some apps for that! The Bryological Times 131: 8.
  • Ramesh, M. A., Collins, R., Lassiter, C. S., Poli, DB., and Poore, M. (2010) There's an App for That: Utilizing iPod Touch Applications for College Level Biology Instruction. Pages 389-390, in Tested Studies for Laboratory Teaching, Volume 32 (K. McMahon, Editor). Proceedings of the 32nd Conference of the Association for Biology Laboratory Education.
  • Poli, DB. (2010) iPlant's DNA Subway is an easy way to teach genomics, annotation. The Bryological Times 130: 4.
  • Fleenor, M. C., Poli, DB., and Rearick, M. (2010) Having your cake and eating too: student engagement and collaborative faculty development. Proceeding for the Lilly 2010 Conference.
  • Contributing Author on Bryophytes in:
    Evans, A.V. (Editor). 2009. The 2006 Potomac Gorge BioBlitz. Overview and results of a 30-hour rapid biological survey. Produced for the National Park Service in accordance with NPS/TNC Cooperative Agreement 1443CA309700101, Modification 0008. George Washington Memorial Parkway, Turkey Run Park, McLean, VA 22101. Banasteria 32:1-80.
  • Cooke, T. J., Poli, DB., and Cohen, J. D. 2004. Did auxin play a crucial role in the evolution of novel body plans during the late Silurian - early Devonian radiation of vascular plants? In A. R. Hemsley and I. Poole (eds.), Evolution of plant physiology, pp. 85-107. Elsevier Academic Press: Amsterdam.
  • Poli, DB., Jacobs, M., and Cooke, T. J. 2003. Auxin regulation of axial growth in bryophyte sporophytes: its potential significance for the evolution of early land plants. Am J Bot 90: 1405-1415.
  • Cooke, T. J., Poli, DB., Sztein, A. E., and Cohen, J. D. 2002. Evolutionary patterns in auxin action. Plant Mol Bio 49: 319-338.

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