Participating Students-Elizabeth Wason

Elizabeth Wason
University of Michigan, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department
BART Enrollement Class 2008
Biospheric Mentor: Mark Hunter
Atmospheric Mentor: Mary Anne Carroll

Elizabeth hails from Wisconsin, and spent her undergraduate years in Houston, Texas. At the University of Michigan, she studies plant-insect interactions. She will work specifically on herbivore-induced plant defenses.

Research Topic:

Plants Make Scents: Plant Volatile Emissions and Genetic Variation in Asclepias syriaca

Plants produce biogenic volatile organic chemicals (BVOCs), which make important contributions to the ecosystem by helping to shape the atmosphere and biosphere. BVOC emissions influence local and regional atmospheric chemistry. Volatile production can be triggered by multiple trophic levels (plants, herbivores, predators, and pollinators), and can likewise invoke responses in these trophic levels. Climate change can influence emission rates, as well as alter the coevolutionary relationships among trophic levels mediated by BVOCs. Thus, feedbacks exist among chemicals in the atmosphere, climate, plants, and insects. BVOCs produced by plants can be used to investigate the interactions among these ecosystem components. The research conducted by Elizabeth at the Biological Station seeks to investigate the role of plant genetic variation in the production of BVOCs, and predicts that herbivore-induced BVOC emissions (1) vary among plant genotypes, and (2) differ in genetically diverse versus homogeneous plant communities.