Matthew E Gilbert

Matthew E Gilbert

Position Title
Assistant Professor

Plant Sciences


Gilbert, an assistant professor in the Department of Plant Sciences, is a crop physiologist. Gilbert completed his Ph.D. in botany at Rhodes University in South Africa, and joined the UC Davis faculty in 2012 after a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University. 

Research interests:

Water-use in agricultural field crops, heat, drought, and sunlight stress responses of plants, combining plant physiology knowledge with plant breeding efforts, photosynthesis, and construction of unique physiology equipment.

Brief overview:

Our lab focuses on the physiology of wheat, bean, and other field crops with the ultimate goal of reducing agricultural water-use. We study the mechanisms of photosynthetic and stomatal responses to the environment. Our general focus is on leaf characteristics, but to be applicable to California, most our experiments are done at agricultural scale using field experiments.

Studying how stomata function is important, as these tiny pores on leaves regulate the plant’s use of water, yet at the same time constrain the potential productivity of crops. We are investigating which stomatal or hydraulic characteristics lead to reduced crop water-use and how to screen for these traits in breeding programs. We are also interested in whether cellular differences scale up to whole-plant and field levels, so as to ensure that physiology-based breeding strategies could have a major impact on agricultural water-use.

Current projects:

  • Crop water-use modeling, focusing on how to breed crops that use less water and/or survive stress
  • Stomatal physiology, how stomata respond to the environment
  • Photosynthesis mechanisms, how CO2 diffuses into the leaf
  • Building crop water-use measuring devices