Assistant Professor of Botany
Joined Connecticut College: 2010
On sabbatical Fall 2014
B.S., University of Massachusetts-Amherst; M.S., Oregon State University; Ph.D., Harvard University
Xylem structure and function
Vascular development in trees
Dr. Spicer is interested in how woody plants adapt, evolve and survive in different environments. Research in her lab is focused on the biology of trees, shrubs and lianas – anything with a large woody stem – and includes projects on how woody stems develop, age and transport water to the leaves.
Trees face particular challenges as plants because of their long lives and massive plant bodies. Dr. Spicer is interested in how the structure of wood affects the overall physiology of a tree, how development of the woody stem is affected by the environment, and how these two processes interact. More recently, she has been studying wood development using the molecular model species Populus by combining tools from molecular biology, physiology and classical plant development.
In the fall of 2013 Dr. Spicer was awarded a three-year, $395K grant from the National Science Foundation titled “Auxin dynamics during vascular development in the model woody plant Populus." The focus of this research is to track the flow of the plant hormone auxin as it moves from young developing leaves down into the stem, where wood is just starting to be produced. In addition to providing funds for state-of-the-art equipment and supplies, this grant will support student research during the academic year and provide summer stipends for up to ten students doing independent research toward senior theses. Read more about Dr. Spicer's NSF research grant.
Work in Professor Spicer’s lab always seems to involve developing a new technique to measure or see something that no one has ever measured or seen before. If you are an undergraduate who likes to tinker, build things, learn new techniques and experiment in the true sense of the word, Professor Spicer encourages you to please stop by New London Hall and say hello.
BOT/ES 493 - Biofuels
BOT 320 - Environmental Plant Physiology
BOT 115 - Introduction to Botany
BIO 105 - Organisms
Spicer, R. 2014. Symplasmic networks in secondary vascular tissues: parenchyma distribution and activity supporting long distance transport. Journal of Experimental Botany (in press; accepted 11/2013).
Hearn D., T. Poulsen & R. Spicer. 2013. The evolution of growth forms with expanded root and shoot parenchymatous storage is correlated across the eudicots. International Journal of Plant Sciences 174:1049-1061.
Carraro, N. C., T. Tisdale-Orr, R. Clouse, A. Knöller, & R. Spicer. 2012. Diversification and expression of the PIN, AUX/LAX and ABCB families of putative auxin transporters in Populus. Frontiers in Plant Science 3:1-17.
Domec, J.-C., B. Lachenbruch, M. Pruyn & R. Spicer. 2012. Effects of age-related increases in sapwood area, leaf area, and xylem conductivity on height-related hydraulic costs in two contrasting coniferous species. Annals of Forest Science 69:17-27.
M. Pruyn & R. Spicer. 2012. Parenchyma. Encyclopedia of Life Sciences. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., Chichester. DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0002083.pub2.
Lens, F., L. Cooper, M.A. Gandolfo, A. Groover, P. Jaiswal, B. Lachenbruch, R. Spicer, M.E. Staton, D.W. Stevenson, R.L. Walls & J. Wegrzyn. 2012. An extension of the Plant Ontology for wood anatomy and development. IAWA Journal 33:113-117.
Spicer, R. & A. Groover. 2010. Evolution of development of vascular cambia and secondary growth. New Phytologist 186:577-592.
Visit the botany department website.
"I love plants and figuring out how they work, but I think I love tree biology in particular because of the challenges large trees present, and the diversity of tools that we employ. Plus, I get to use power tools. Some days begin by hiking around the woods with liquid nitrogen. By lunch I’m using a miter saw, and by dinner I’ve extracted RNA from 20-yr-old cells. It’s a dream job! " - Rachel Spicer