09/09/2019 Created by Daniel Fleiter

Moises Exposito-Alonso received four awards for his dissertation on the impact of global climate change in the context of the earth's genetic biodiversity.

Tübingen, September 9, 2019.Moises Exposito-Alonso received four awards for his research and dissertation at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology and the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences of the Eberhard Karls University in Tübingen. Four years ago, he embarked his PhD thesis with the goal to identify genes that could help plants to survive under future climate change.

Exposito-Alonso was particularly interested in how the unique blends of genetic mutations allowed different individuals of the same species to resist various magnitudes of experimentally simulated climates.

In his experiments, he investigated a survival potential of genetically distinct plant specimens from over 500 different natural populations of the small thale cress under simulated extreme drought in greenhouses located in Spain and Germany. This data was then combined with models predicting how temperatures and precipitation are expected to shift geographically in the next few decades in order to understand how plant biodiversity will be affected by climate change.

“Some of these mutations could confer physiological advantages in a changing climate,” explained Exposito-Alonso. “So, the primary goal of my thesis was to classify their impact across all mutations of a species in conjunction with their survival.”

As precipitation decreases and temperatures rise, especially in so-called transition zones between the Mediterranean and northern Europe, his forecasts indicate that many of the continent’s predominant plant types wouldn´t have the mutations to survive.

With such information in hand, it will be possible to improve predictions of what populations of a species are at most at risk of extinction driven by climate change.

The thesis was awarded the Leopoldina Award for Young Scientists, which is endowed with 5,000 EUR. This prestigious prize is awarded every two years to young scientists with remarkable scientific achievements. In addition, Exposito-Alonso receives the "Reinhold und Maria Teufel-Stiftung Doctoral Award" for outstanding dissertations in the fields of biology and law. The award of the Tuttlingen-based foundation is also worth EUR 5,000. Other awards include the "Wilhelm Pfeffer Prize" of the German Botanical Society, which honours 2,500 EUR in prize money to outstanding dissertations in the field of botany, and the Dissertation Prize of the University of Tübingen.