The Dinneny lab explores the molecular mechanisms through which plants detect and acclimate to drought. When conditions are dry, plants rapidly activate a signaling program that allows them to conserve water. But little is known about how plants determine that water is scarce. I will develop tools for dynamically monitoring the water content inside living plant cells. Depletion of water can induce various stresses in plant cells—altering their ion balances, membrane tension, and cell wall integrity. Using an intracellular osmotic monitoring system, I hope to identify the proteins that sense these drought-induced changes and determine which genes they activate when water is in short supply. I will then inhibit the activity of these and other potential sensors and assess whether the plant’s response is disrupted—work that could add to our understanding of how organisms perceive and respond to their environment and lead to new strategies for improving the drought tolerance of crops.