Unlike most animals, plants don’t have the option to run away when something is trying to eat them. Instead, they develop all kinds of chemical and structural defenses. But these defenses can be energetically costly, and plants’ ability to defend themselves can change over time and with the environment. In her Share Your Research Talk, Dr. Mia Howard discusses how soil microbes can influence defensive traits in goldenrod (Solidago altissima) at various stages of succession. Her work reveals that microbial communities from late succession soils can increase plant resistance to herbivory, and may even make plants less vulnerable to pests.
Mia Howard is an ecologist interested in soil microbes and plant-herbivore interactions. She completed her doctoral research at Cornell University, where she studied the chemical ecology of plant-microbe-insect interactions in native goldenrod (Solidago altissima), and is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at Indiana University. Continue Reading