I’m a physiological and evolutionary ecologist who studies how the functional traits of plants evolve and how these traits influence plant performance, community assembly, and ecosystem function. My work also explores the origin and maintenance of the symbiosis between plants and mycorrhizal fungi, with an aim to understand why the symbiosis is so widespread in the plant kingdom, yet highly variable in terms of its effects on plant growth.
I obtained a B.Sc. in Biology from McGill University in 1992, followed by an M.Sc. in 1997 and a Ph.D. in 1999 in Plant Biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I was a postdoctoral fellow in Biology at Duke University from 1999-2002, and started a faculty position at the University of Guelph in 2003.
I also serve as the Director of the University of Guelph Phytotron. The Phytotron is the main plant growth research facility for the College of Biological Science and is comprised of technologically advanced greenhouse, growth chambers and growth rooms, and is among the best facilities of its kind in Canada.
B.Sc. - McGill University
Ph.D. - University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
Our research focuses on two distinct areas:
First, we aim to understand the evolutionary causes of physiological variation in plants, particularly with respect to the ecophysiology of photosynthesis and water acquisition. By converting light into chemical energy, photosynthesis not only influences plant growth, but also sustains all other trophic levels. Our overall aim is to understand the the role of photosynthesis in plant adaptation to environmental resource variation, particularly limitations imposed by water stress. This work includes studies of natural selection on physiological traits as well as studies that link genome size and plant physiology.
Our second major goal is to understand the evolution and maintenance of the nutritional symbiosis between plants and mycorrhizal fungi. This interaction is widespread, taking place in up to 90% of all plant species on Earth. We study how mycorrhizal fungi influence the evolution of plant structure and function, and also seek to understand why the magnitude of the mutualistic benefit plants obtain from their fungal symbionts is so variable in the plant kingdom. Much of our ecological research is aimed at understanding how variation in mutualistic benefit among plant species influences diversity and productivity in plant communities.
*Undergraduate, †Graduate or #Postdoctoral advisee
*McHaffie M.B., Maherali H. 2020. Influence of differences in mycorrhizal growth response on intraspecific and interspecific competition in two co-occurring plant species. Oecologia, 192: 755-765.
†Pacey E.K., Maherali H., Husband B.C. 2020. The influence of experimentally induced polyploidy on the relationships between endopolyploidy and plant function in Arabidopsis thaliana. Ecology & Evolution, 10: 198-216.
Maherali H. 2020.Mutualism as a plant functional trait: linking variation in the mycorrhizal symbiosis to climate, geographic range and population dynamics. Invited submission for special issue on the Evolution of Plant Functional Traits, International Journal of Plant Sciences, 181: 9-19.
Caruso C.M., Maherali H., Martin R. 2020. A meta-analysis of natural selection on plant functional traits. Invited submission for special issue on the Evolution of Plant Functional Traits, International Journal of Plant Sciences, 181: 44-55.
†Rekret P., Maherali H. 2019. Local adaptation to arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in geographically close plant populations. Oecologia, 190:127-138.
Koyama A., Maherali H., Antunes P. 2019.Influence of plant phylogeny and invasive status on the structure of root-inhabiting fungal communities. Journal of Ecology, 107:720-736.
Medeiros J., Lens F., Maherali H., Jansen S. 2019. Vestured pits and scalariform perforation plate morphology modify the relationships between angiosperm vessel traits, climate and maximum plant height. New Phytologist, 221:1802-1813.