Dahlem Centre of Plant Sciences
The Dahlem Centre of Plant Sciences (DCPS) is a research focus area of the Free University of Berlin, implemented in June 2009. The goal is to establish in Berlin-Dahlem, a site with a strong history in plant science research, an internationally visible plant science centre, including the Botanical Garden Berlin-Dahlem, one of the world's largest botanical gardens and collections. The Dahlem Centre of Plant Sciences covers a wide spectrum of plant science disciplines, provides a platform for interdisciplinary collaborative research initiatives and supports a variety of outreach activities. Members of the Dahlem Centre of Plant Sciences are involved in teaching plant biology at different levels including programs for the general public.
Idea and Vision
The Dahlem Centre of Plant Sciences is a new modern centre for plant sciences at Freie Universität Berlin. As a Freie Universität Berlin research focus area, it is supported by funds from the university’s future development strategy (International Network University) that proved so successful in the Excellence Initiative launched by the federal and Länder governments. The Dahlem Centre of Plant Sciences brings together different research areas, largely separately previously, and provides them with a platform to open up new research fields. It comprises a wide spectrum of plant sciences including molecular and cell biology, genetics, biochemistry, plant physiology, developmental biology, systematics and taxonomy, plant geography, ecology and pharmaceutical biology. Founding the Dahlem Centre of Plant Sciences in June 2009 implemented a close and productive cooperation between these disciplines. The Berlin-Dahlem location was already the site of an internationally renowned plant science centre in the early 1900s. The centre is building on this historical foundation. Research aims to play its part in a comprehensive understanding of plant diversity, preserving that diversity and facilitating the sustainable use of plant resources. Since sustainability is also a main concern in promoting the new generation of scientists in this area, the Dahlem Centre of Plant Sciences sets out to promote young scholars and researchers as they start their career. At present, seven independent groups of young scientists are conducting research here. Doctoral students currently can study at the Plant Sciences graduate school under the umbrella of the Dahlem Research School. One of the key objectives is to create and leverage synergies. The concentration of resources in research and collections in the southwest of Berlin is unique throughout Germany. As a result, the Dahlem Centre of Plant Sciences is also an important hub for plant research networked on the regional, national and international levels. Through the links between research groups with an organismic orientation and those working in molecular biology, as well as partner institution cooperations in the region and across the world, the Dahlem Centre of Plant Sciences is set to become a centre with a strong national and international profile.
Main Research Areas
DCPS focuses on two scientific leitmotifs: “Function and Diversity” and “Plant and Environment”. The research findings from both areas are transferred to practices supporting sustainable use and the protection of plant diversity. Here, the spectrum ranges from the development of genetic resources (Applied Plant Sciences) to the management of varied eco-systems. Public relations and communication tools are also used to present the findings in a more accessible form to a broader audience. Function and Diversity research aims to produce new insights into the evolutionary development of the morphological and functional diversity of plants. The evolution of new traits and the mechanisms of genome evolutions are studied by combining comparative genomics with phylogenetic, biochemical and molecular techniques. The topics addressed include the evolution and function of signal transfer processes in plant cells, the role of the numerous plant secondary metabolites, the uptake and utilization of nutrients as well as the development of morphological features. This work is based on the rapidly growing information available from genome sequencing. In the meantime this goes far beyond the model plant Arabidopsis, previously the focus of much research, and opens up numerous approaches capable of contributing to a better understanding of gene functions and the evolution of biological diversity. The close links to the newly established Berlin Consortium for Genomics in Biodiversity Research play a significant role in research into genome sequence and structure. In the Plant and Environment field of research, the focus is on plant functions and adaptive reactions in the context of constantly changing environmental conditions. This complex topic requires a transdisciplinary approach to understand the context (phylogeny, plant geography, ecology) as well as the mechanisms (physiology, biochemistry, molecular biology). Together with its regional partners, the Dahlem Centre of Plant Sciences covers the broad spectrum of expertise required here. The research concentrates on plant reactions to such abiotic stress factors as light intensity, extremes of temperature, lack of water and nutrients, as well as plant biotic interactions with other organisms, for example, insects or fungi. The research groups are working on such diverse themes as, for instance, the responses of plants to pathogens, plants’ cellular memory for environmental stress, the role of root architecture in fungi colonisation and its significance for crop yields and the mechanisms of neighbouring plants to communicate with each other.
Structure and Networking
The core of the DCPS is built around plant scientists at the Institute of Biology and the Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum, which is part of Freie Universität Berlin’s Central Services, as well as the pharmaceutical biology research groups from the Institute of Pharmacy. These different fields of study are all located on Freie Universität’s campus in Berlin-Dahlem. Since Freie Universität Berlin also has experts from many different fields, interdisciplinary cooperation projects can be established in a straightforward way. For example, when implementing research projects on environmental themes, it is essential to include geoscientists, legal specialists and political scientists. Computer scientists and mathematicians are vital in effectively processing the vast amounts of data available. Complex issues and facts to be disseminated to a broad audience are prepared together with specialists in education and teaching methodology.
- Homepage of Dahlem Centre of Plant Sciences
- Homepage of the doctoral program Plant Sciences
- Publications of Dahlem Centre of Plant Sciences