Gail Taylor: New Department Chair in Plant Sciences

Gail Taylor is the new department chair, and professor, in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of California, Davis. She comes to UC Davis from the University of Southampton, UK, where she was professor of plant sciences since 2004 and director of research for Biological Sciences, overseeing the research strategy and management for a diverse group of faculty. Her areas of research include molecular breeding for sustainable leafy crops such as lettuce and watercress, and the development and delivery of trees for bioenergy in a sustainable landscape.

Gail Taylor is the new department chair, and professor, in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis.

In her new position as department chair at UC Davis, Taylor will oversee the department’s 68 faculty, and approximately 650 employees (staff, other academics, graduate and undergraduate students, and affiliates). Her faculty appointment will be in the area of plants and environment, and she will bring at least six people from the UK to UC Davis.

Her current research priorities include the molecular basis of plant adaptation to a high CO2 world, improving the postharvest shelf life of lettuce through preharvest physiology and genetics, and producing the first genomic information on watercress — the most nutrient dense of the leafy crops with significant links to health outcomes.

“I’m excited about coming to UC Davis because green plants have never been more important in addressing the global challenges of delivering food and energy whilst preserving the natural capital of sustainable ecosystems,” said Taylor. “Very few places in the world are better equipped than the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis to address these challenges, and I look forward to working with the talented plant science teams and others across the UC Davis campus to provide training and research of wide significance to industry and policy development over the coming years.”

Taylor’s academic degrees are a B.Sc. and Ph.D. from Lancaster University, UK, where she was supervised by Terry Mansfield, FRS, and Bill Davies, CBE (currently a distinguished professor at Lancaster University), and a Fellowship of the Royal Society of Biology.

Taylor will be joined at UC Davis by her husband, Professor Peter Freer-Smith (D.Sc.), who will take a post in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy. Freer-Smith was most recently UK Government Chief Scientific Advisor for Forestry. Their daughters, Charlotte and Constance, are studying medicine and finance, respectively, in the UK.

Gail Taylor’s administrative office is in 1210A Plant and Environmental Sciences (PES) building, and she can be reached at 530-752-9165 or Her faculty office is also in the PES building.

Taylor’s official start date was July 1, and her group will join in September 2017. She succeeds Chris van Kessel as department chair (2004–2016), and Joe DiTomaso as interim chair (2016–2017).

(Article by Ann Filmer, Dept. of Plant Sciences, UC Davis)

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