David Des Marais

Des Marais

David L. Des Marais

Research Associate, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology

Senior Fellow of the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University

1300 Centre Street
Boston, MA 02131
Phone: 617-384-5495
Fax: 617.384.6596


PhD Biology (2008), Duke University
BA Integrative Biology (2000), The University of California at Berkeley

Research Interests

I study the diversity of life at many different scales. Like most of us, I am amazed by the visual diversity of plant life. But I am also fascinated by the diversity of genes, proteins, and other molecules which give rise to the beautiful plants that surround us. My research addresses how molecular processes shape organismal diversity, and how these processes evolve within and between species of plants.

My current research deals with the how plants interact with the environment, and how plant-environment interactions vary within and between species of plants. Unlike animals, plants cannot move to escape harsh environmental conditions. For example, if water becomes scarce, plants must adjust their water intake so as not to exhaust every last drop. And, if all soil water is exhausted, they must protect their tissues from drying out. Plants have evolved many strategies to deal with environmental stress—from the thick leaves and unusual photosynthesis seen in cacti, to so-called “resurrection plants” which can survive periods of near complete desiccation. Most plants do not have nearly such extravagant strategies for coping with stress, but all plants respond to stress in some way. I study the genetic and physiological basis of these responses. In my research, I hope to understand how plants adapt to local climates, and how we might use this information to conserve plant populations and to exploit genetic diversity to provide food and fuel for growing demand.

Recent Publications

  • Des Marais, David L., Kyle Hernandez, Samsad Razzaque and Thomas E. Juenger. In press. Quantitative trait loci associated with natural diversity in water use efficiency and response to soil drying in Brachypodium distachyon. Plant Science.
  • Campitelli, Brandon E., David L. Des Marais, and Thomas E. Juenger. 2016. Ecological interactions and the fitness effects of water-use efficiency: Competition and drought alter the impact of natural MPK12 alleles in Arabidopsis. Ecology Letters 19: 424-434.
  • Des Marais, David L. and Thomas E. Juenger. 2016. Brachypodium and the abiotic environment. In: Genetics and Genomics of Brachypodium. John Vogel, editor. Springer Publishers.
  • Des Marais, David L., Wesley D. Skillern and Thomas E. Juenger. 2015. Deeply diverged alleles in the Arabidopsis AREB1 transcription factor drive genome-wide differences in transcriptional response to the environment. Molecular Biology and Evolution 32: 956-969.
  • Des Marais, David L., Lisa C. Auchincloss, Emeline Sukamtoh, John K. McKay, Tierney Logan, James H. Richards, and Thomas E. Juenger. 2014. Variation in MPK12 affects water use efficiency in Arabidopsis and reveals a pleiotropic link between guard cell size and ABA response. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 111: 2836-2841.
  • Lasky, Jesse R., David L. Des Marais, David B. Lowry, Inna Povolotskaya, John K. McKay, James H. Richards, Timothy H. Keitt, and Thomas E. Juenger. 2014. Natural variation in abiotic stress responsive gene expression and local adaptation in Arabidopsis thaliana. Molecular Biology and Evolution 31: 2283-2296.
  • Des Marais, David L., Kyle Hernandez  and Thomas E. Juenger. 2013. Genotype-by-environment interaction and plasticity: exploring genomic responses of plants to the abiotic environment. Annual Reviews in Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 44: 5-29.
  • Des Marais, David L., John K. McKay, James H. Richards, Saunak Sen, Tierney Wayne and Thomas E. Juenger. 2012. Physiological genomics of response to soil drying in diverse Arabidopsis accessions. The Plant Cell 24: 893-914.