B.S., Cornell, 2009
Plants are immobile prey of hungry insects, which forces reliance on physical and chemical defenses rather than mechanical escape. But production of these defenses against herbivores can be costly when herbivores are absent. Thus, selection should favor induced responses when herbivore presence is variable.
My research explores the mechanisms by which clonal plants communicate and respond to information concerning herbivore presence. I hypothesize that previous herbivore presence will induce resistance to herbivory in nearby plants or plant parts. The signals mediating this induction could travel through the vasculature, the air, or the rhizosphere.
Clonal plants offer an ideal system for the study of signaling because they share vascular connections, headspace, and root territory. My experiments use paired ramets (separately rooted plants that are clones of the same genotype) of wild beach strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis) exposed to spider mite (Tetranychus urticae) herbivory. By manipulating the connections between ramets and comparing herbivore performance on ramets connected to damaged versus undamaged partners, I will test which signaling mechanisms result in induced resistance.
I spent 2009-2011 at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany. Working with Meredith Schuman, Jonathan Gershenzon, and Ian Baldwin, I tested the role of sesquiterpenes in plant resistance to oxidative stresses. I also explored the contribution of plant volatiles to local formation of aerosols. Our transgenic lines suffered a lot, but we hope to immortalize them with a high-impact publication sometime soon.
I graduated from Cornell University in 2009 in Biology with a Neurobiology and Behavior concentration. I conducted an independent study project with Paul Sherman on the antimicrobial properties of the fermented milk kefir. In 2009 I had a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF REU) at the Institute of Ecosystem Studies (IES, Millbrook, NY, ) studying nitrate reduction in sediments of Onondaga Lake (Syracuse, NY).