I am a plant physiologist and I am interested in understanding plant insect defense mechanisms. My research focuses specifically on understanding how maize responds to one of its most devastating pests, the European corn borer. I use molecular and proteomic techniques to conduct my research as well as microscopy techniques.
PhD - Biology - University of Victoria, British Columbia
BSc - Biology - Grand Valley State University, Michigan
I am interested in studying how plants interact with insects, specifically how maize responds to the European corn borer (ECB, Ostrinia nubilalis). ECB begin by feeding in the whorl tissue and then eventually tunnel into the stalk of the maize where they cause most of the damage. Tunneling can disrupt vascular transport and it can provide a site for pathogen infection. If severe enough, damage can cause maize plants to lodge. Maize plants respond to ECB damage by inducing a defense response. It produces defensive compounds that are known to inhibit the growth and fecundity of insects. Feeding assays with ECB, demonstrate that these compounds do not impede ECB larval growth. My research demonstrates that the damaged tissue has significantly higher levels of protein compared to non-damaged tissues. This increase in protein appears to be related to a process called endoreduplication in which a cell’s DNA is replicated without concomitant cell division. In essence, ECB appear to manipulate corn to produce more nutritious tissues to feed upon and I am interested in understanding the significance of endoreduplication in this process.