- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Chemical ecologist Andre Kessler, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell University, will discuss "Chemical Information Driving Plant Interactions and Community Dynamics" at the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's virtual seminar, set from 4:10 to 5 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 9.
"Andre is one of the most exciting and innovative researchers working on plant defenses against herbivores," said ecologist and seminar host Richard 'Rick' Karban, professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. "There are a limited number of people whose work is so exciting that I make certain to read anything they write, as soon as it comes out. Andre is one of those people who has truly pushed our field forward."
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"As sessile organisms, plants have to adjust their metabolism to ever-changing environmental conditions in order to stay in place and successfully reproduce," Kessler says in his abstract. "Thereby plants orchestrate interactions with other organisms (e.g. other plants, herbivores, pathogens, predators etc.) by providing cues or signals to whoever can read them. The seemingly universal language used to manipulate those interactions is chemical. This presentation reviews some of the Kessler Lab research on the ecological functionality and environmental context-dependency of chemical information transfer in the charismatic Northeastern goldenrod plants, Solidago altissima."
As a chemical ecologist, his research focuses on the mechanisms, ecological consequences and the evolution of plant induced responses to herbivore damage.
"Conceptually, I study plant secondary metabolism as a vehicle of information transfer," he writes on his website. "Chemical information can mediate complex interactions from the molecular and cell to the whole plant and community level. As a consequence, my research includes studying chemical elicitation of plant responses, plant chemistry-mediated alterations in insect population and community dynamics, plant-plant communication, plant-pollinator interactions and plant defense mechanisms against herbivores. In my lab we use chemical and molecular tools in manipulative field and laboratory experiments to understand the mechanism of elicitation, signal transduction and information-mediating secondary metabolite production in plants responding to biotic and abiotic environmental stresses."
"Moreover, we put a particular emphasis on studying the ecological functions and evolution of plant metabolic responses and chemical information transfer in the plants' native habitats. With more recent projects my group tries to apply some of the chemical ecology principles found in native systems to control insect pests in agricultural systems. My research includes a number of different study systems in New York, Utah, Peru, Costa Rica, Colombia and Kenya."
Professor Kessler received his master's degree from the University of Würzbug, Germany, where he studied ecology, genetics and geobotany. He earned his doctorate from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology and University of Jena, Germany.
Professor Karban, who will introduce his colleague and monitor the questions-and-answer session, is the author of the landmark book, Plant Sensing and Communication (University of Chicago Press), described as “the first comprehensive overview of what is known about how plants perceive their environments, communicate those perceptions, and learn" (Graeme Ruxton of the University of St. Andrews, UK, co-author of Experimental Design for the Life Sciences and Plant-Animal Communication.)
Cooperative Extension specialist Ian Grettenberg, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is coordinating the seminars. For any technical issues, contact Grettenberger at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Generations of Insect Attacks Drive Plants to 'Talk' Publicly (The Scientist, March 1, 2020)
- Plants Use a Common 'Language' for Emergency Alerts (Cornell Chronicle, Oct. 2, 2019)