Adrienne Godschalx


As organisms rooted in place, plants have solved many ecological challenges biochemically. Plants produce an array of compounds to poison enemies, lure aggressive predators for protection, navigate pollen-carrying insects to plant sex organs, and negotiate peaceful trade agreements with microbes. Virtually all plants rely on another organism to provide an ecological service. My research explores mechanisms by which plant-symbiont ecological interactions select for the evolution of a particular chemical phenotype.

Plant biochemistry fundamentally influences all terrestrial ecosystems on our planet. Photosynthesis splits water to form energy-rich carbon bonds that support all food webs. Plants nourish a wide diversity of mammals, insects, fungi, and other primary consumers. Yet, plant biochemistry also limits plant consumption, as secondary metabolites arm plants with toxic compounds, thick waxes, and chemical signals carrying information about the plant.

Understanding the eco-evolutionary forces that drive plant chemistry is essential to understanding how the natural world works. Studying community-level interactions, including symbiont-driven plant chemistry, brings us closer to developing sustainable solutions for managing complex plant-insect interactions important for biodiversity conservation, crop protection and pollination.

Postdoctoral project

Coercing insects to carry genetic material from one plant to another has resulted in many creative adaptations. Plants in the Arum genus often trap dung-seeking pollinators by producing heat and volatilizing feces-like fragrances. Our aim is to measure the evolutionary consequences of the chemical ecology involved in this outcrossing strategy: deceptive pollination.

Specific areas of research

  • Deceptive pollination in the fruity-feces-scented Arum lilies
  • Nitrogen-fixation effects on tritrophic cascades in legume-rhizobia symbiosis
  • Extrafloral nectar in ant-plant indirect defense

See also: www.sciencemartini.com


Adrienne Godschalx



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