Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Twitter & Instagram - @Oso_Tee
Website - www.oluwatobi.website
My broad research interests are plant anatomy, systematics, development, and evolution. My background of classical botany gave me an opportunity to work on a wide range of research questions, plant systems, and analytical tools. I have worked on Ruellia tuberosa during my undergrad, Ficus during my Master’s, and Petalidium for a bit. Shortly after my Master’s, I received a TWAS-CSIR research fellowship to the National Botanical Research Institute, India, where my research integrated geomorphometric and molecular phylogenetic approaches with a view to understanding trait diversity and structural homology in leaves, stem, and pollen of 24 species of the Nigerian Cucurbitaceae.
The research fellowship gave me an opportunity to get hands-on experience with research facilities and analytical tools - DNA extraction, PCR techniques, and scanning electron microscopy. Over the years, I have worked on different structures including leaves, stem, roots, wood, and pollen, and different tools including light microscopy, MicroCT scanning, geomorphometrics, phylogenetic analyses, and image analysis.
My current research seeks to understand the evolution of buds, the developmental trajectory of structures in buds, differences in bud packing between tropical and temperate species, and to adequately understand the influence of bud-packing on diversity of leaf forms. My current study system is Viburnum, a clade of over 160 woody species with great diversity in leaf form and multiple evolutionary transitions between tropical and temperate forests that correspond with predictable changes in leaf form. So, basically, I want to evaluate whether leaf form gradient is shaped by developmental adaptation within a confined space inside the buds. My supervisor is Professor Erika Edwards, a super supportive person who gives room for creative freedom and research independence.
How Oluwatobi got interested in the botanical sciences:
My interest going to the University was to study Medicine at The University of Ibadan, Nigeria, but let’s just say my fate got twisted because there were not enough admission places into Medicine, and so I had to choose between Botany and Zoology. Applying to study Botany proved to be an interesting academic career move for me, not because I was sure of what I was getting into, but because I ended up developing a deep interest in plants and plant-based research.
During my undergraduate days, we covered every aspect of botany from taxonomy to anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, ecology, genetics, mycology, algology, bryology, palaeobotany, ethnobotany, and pathology. However, where I took the most interest was in studying the internal structures of plants and understanding nomenclature and classification. We would spend hours in the field observing and studying many tropical plants from different families and their morphology, and then go to the lab, make sections, stain them, and observe them under the microscope.
These interests formed the basis for my undergraduate thesis, and ultimately set the groundwork for my academic progress. While my undergraduate thesis, “The Anatomy of Ruellia tuberosa in Relation to its Adaptation in Varying Environments,” gave me my first real exposure to research, plant anatomical tools, literature analysis, and academic writing, it was my Master’s degree project that set me onto the path of evolutionary plant biology. Both theses were under the guidance and mentorship of Prof. Adeniyi Jayeola, a leading professor of Plant Anatomy and Systematics in Nigeria and Africa, whom I’m so grateful to have worked with.
Oluwatobi's advice for those just starting their botanical journey:
Botany is not all lab!!! Actively look for opportunities to grow, join a community of people passionate about similar interests, ask questions, and be open to learning. And like every journey, it helps to "plant-science" one day at a time.
When I’m not doing science, I’m either volunteering as a Youth Worker in the community, or playing the piano or bass guitar in Church, or creating websites on Wordpress or Drupal, or most of all, spending time with my wife and kids at home.
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