Stephanie Klein

Stephanie Klein

  • Ph.D. Candidate, Plant Biology


  • Ph.D Candidate, Plant Biology, Penn State University
  • B.S. Integrative Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2013


Working with Jonathan Lynch, I seek to identify root traits that mitigate drought effects on agricultural crops. My projects primarily explore the roles root xylem traits play to enhance water acquisition in field-grown maize.

I work to identify root traits that mitigate drought effects on agricultural crops. Drought is complex, and its timing and severity can induce variable effects on plant function. My projects explore individual phenes and phene combinations, or integrated phenotypes, that optimize water acquisition over space and time in an effort to counteract drought stress. Integrated root phenotypes that facilitate conserved soil moisture usage and deeper root growth by making roots both cheaper to maintain or better able to penetrate hard drying soils were associated with better plant growth under drought.

Additional projects have focused on the root metaxylem, which are the main structures that transport water from the roots to the shoots. Much like other root phenes studied by the Roots Lab, we observed wide variation in root metaxylem phenotypes in maize. Using an interdisciplinary approach combining high-throughput phenotyping, physiology, computational biology, and association mapping, we are working toward better understanding the genetic basis of root metaxylem phenotypes and their association to drought responses.


  1. Gray SB, O Dermody, SP Klein , AM Locke, JM McGrath, RE Paul, DM Rosenthal, UM Ruiz-Vera, MH Siebers, R Strellner, EA Ainsworth, CJ Bernacchi, SP Long, DR Ort, ADB Leakey (2016) Intensifying drought eliminates the expected benefits of elevated carbon dioxide in soybean . Nature Plants DOI: 10.1038/nplants.2016.132.
  2. Orman-Ligeza B, EC Morris, B Parizot, T Lavigne, A Babé, A Ligeza, S Klein , C Sturrock, W Xuan, O Novák, K Ljung, MA Fernandez, PL Rodriguez, IC Dodd, I De Smet, F Chaumont, H Batoko, C Périlleux, JP Lynch, MJ Bennett, T Beeckman, X Draye (2018) The xerobranching response represses lateral root formation when roots are not in contact with water . Current Biology 28 (19): 3165-3173. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.07.074
  3. Schneider HM, SP Klein , MT Hanlon, EA Nord, S Kaeppler, KM Brown, A Warry, R Bhosale, J Lynch (2020) Genetic control of root architectural plasticity in maize . Journal of Experimental Botany. DOI: 1093/jxb/eraa084
  4. Schneider HM, SP Klein , MT Hanlon, S Kaeppler, KM Brown, JP Lynch (2020) Genetic control of root anatomical plasticity in maize . The Plant Genome. DOI: 1002/tpg2.20003
  5. Klein SP , HM Schneider, A Perkins, K Brown, J Lynch. Multiple integrated root phenotypes are associated with improved drought tolerance . (2020) Plant Physiology. DOI: 1104/pp.20.00211
  6. Klein SP , JE Reeger, S Kaeppler, K Brown, J Lynch. Shared genetic architecture underlying root metaxylem phenotypes under drought stress in cereals . (2020) bioRxiv, Pre-print.