Headshot of Bryan Piatkowski

Bryan T Piatkowski

Liane B. Russell Distinguished Staff Fellow

I joined ORNL in 2021 as a Liane B. Russell Distinguished Staff Fellow. The projects that I am currently working on include:

  • The evolution of abiotic stress tolerance in plants (Distinguished Staff Fellowship)
  • The molecular mechanisms by which poplar, a biofuel feedstock, interacts with symbiotic bacteria (Plant-Microbe Interfaces SFA)
  • How the poplar metabolome is affected by environmental and genetic factors (BioScales SFA)
  • The impacts of warming on the microbiome of Sphagnum, a group of plants that have unrivaled capacity to store carbon (Early Career Award, D. Weston)

I am part of the Plant Systems Biology group in the Biosciences Division (BSD) within the Biological and Environmental Systems Science Directorate (BESSD).

As an evolutionary biologist, my research broadly aims to better understand the dynamic relationship between organisms and their environment. I integrate experimental and computational techniques to gain a predictive understanding of plant evolution in the context of environmental change. The grand vision for my research is to establish robust linkages between genes, organismal traits, and the environment in plant lineages that are important to solving the climate crisis.

My current research pursues two major aims: (1) understand how climate gradients impact the evolutionary trajectories of plant lineages and (2) elucidate the molecular genetics of plant stress resilience.

In this framework, I utilize poplar trees (Populus spp.) and Sphagnum peat mosses as model systems. Poplar has been targeted by the U.S. Department of Energy as one of the leading feedstock candidates for biofuel production, while peat mosses have an extraordinary impact on global climate due to their ability to sequester vast amounts of carbon and their role as keystone species of Northern Hemisphere peatland ecosystems. These efforts will aid in the preservation of biodiversity and help us move towards a more sustainable future.


  • Ph.D. in Biology (2020), Duke University
    • Dissertation = "From Genes to Traits and Ecosystems: Evolutionary Ecology of Sphagnum (peat moss)"
  • M.S. in Plant Biology (2015), Southern Illinois University
  • B.S. in Biology (2012), Roanoke College

Please download my CV on this page to learn more about my previous professional positions and organizational service.