Dominique Bergmann is interested in resilience and flexibility. Why do some communities and individuals have these qualities? How can we stimulate them in others? She encourages us to look beyond our own species to see how plants, whose existence is literally rooted in place, provide some of the best and most long-term examples of resilience strategies that enable plants to thrive in unpredictable times.
Bergmann is a Professor in the Biology department at Stanford University and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. There, she and her team of researchers study plant stomata—valves on the surfaces of leaves that enable plant to take in carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and to release oxygen and water vapor back to the atmosphere. The collective activity of millions of stomata on millions of plants drives climate cycles. But as much as stomata change their environment, their behavior and development are changed by the environment. Her group studies the microscopic details of how plants alter their patterns of growth to optimize their cells and organs to maximize their growth potential without becoming too susceptible to drought. By teaming up with global ecologists, her group monitors environmental inputs into development and tests models about the functional consequences of altered stomata at the whole plant or whole planet scales.
Bergmann was born and raised in Bethlehem, PA where she attended public schools in the shadows of the steel mill blast furnaces. She received the Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering in 2009 and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2017.