Winning entry of the April 2017 “Teaching Tools Proposal” competition

Please contact Mary Williams if you’d like to discuss submitting a Teaching Tool preproprosal.

Investigating Darwin’s “abominable mystery” – the angiosperms, by Sonja Dunbar

Flowering plants, the angiosperms, make up roughly 1/6th of the living species currently known. This teaching tool will explore the rapid diversification and success of the flowering plants.This tool will first consider the evolutionary history of the group and how it is intertwined and dependent on that of animals, especially insects. It will consider what makes a flower, covering flower anatomy and introducing concepts such as the ABC model and the mutants that helped establish it. The tool will address challenges to angiosperms of avoiding self fertilisation and the interaction of carnivorous angiosperms with insects. Finally, why flowers enabled angiosperms to radiate so dramatically and the evidence for selective pressure on flower traits will be explored through a number of case studies.

Sonja Dunbar studied for a BA in Natural Sciences at Downing College, Cambridge, graduating in 2010 with a specialism in Plant Sciences. Following an MRes in Biochemical Research at Imperial College London, Sonja returned to Cambridge to undertake a PhD in the Department of Pharmacology under the supervision of Dr. Laura Itzhaki. Her PhD investigated the intrinsically disordered protein binding partners of beta-catenin using biophysical methods. Returning to her plant science roots, she has taught Plant and Microbial Sciences since her return to Cambridge in 2012 and now works in the Department of Plant Sciences creating teaching resources. On learning of her selection as a competition winner, Sonja commented, “I’m always looking for new ways to make plant science topics engaging and understandable. I’ve used ideas from lots of different Teaching Tools to supplement my teaching across the years, so I’m really excited to have the opportunity to give back and add to the collection.”


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