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Current Research (PhD Thesis):

Many plants species are found to be capable of growing in different types of habitats, where the environmental and biotic pressures vary. To overcome this, plants need to be plastic and thus exhibit changes that allow them to adapt and change depending on the new challenges facing them. Herbivory is one of the factors that changes within short time spans and plants have to respond to this within the context of the habitat they are growing.

Plant volatile organic compounds are some of the strategies plants use to deal with changing environments. Plant volatiles have been shown to protect plants directly from abiotic stresses like temperature and ozone and also from biotic stresses like pathogens and insects. Additionally volatiles indirectly play a role in the attraction of natural enemies (“cry for help”). Because of their multiple roles in nature, little is known on how volatile compounds evolved. To fully understand how/why volatiles evolved, a community approach has been viewed as necessary.

In the last decade grassland ecosystems (that are naturally diverse) have been used to study multiple community processes like competition, population regulation, nutrient cycling, and predator-prey interactions as well as the effect of plant species richness on these processes. In my thesis I therefore work on grassland species. My thesis focuses on the effect of plant species richness and composition on the emission of volatile organic compounds. I focus mainly on the emission of volatiles from Trifolium pratense a legume occurring in many natural meadows in Europe. I investigated volatile emission both under field and laboratory conditions.

My interests continue to be looking at how insect -plant interactions change under different environmental conditions like competition, drought stress and multiple herbivores, with a deeper motivation of being able to find sustainable solutions for agricultural and environmental applications. I am also interested in research on species that are native to the tropics to understand the ecological roles that plant defenses play, how they have evolved under tropical conditions and how this compares with temperate species.
last updated on 2011-10-12