More bad news for monarch butterflies. Rising atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide reduce the medicinal quality of milkweed leaves, thereby reducing the tolerance of monarchs to their protozoan parasites. Published in the journal Ecology Letters, research by Leslie Decker in our lab suggests that monarchs could get sicker as CO2 levels continue to rise. You can read about Leslie’s findings here, and watch a short video here.
Leslie’s results could have implications far beyond monarch butterflies. Many species of animal, including humans, rely on plants for medicines. If elevated CO2 reduces the medicinal quality of milkweed leaves, it might also reduce the potency of other medicinal plants. Do we really want to take that risk by continuing to emit such high levels of CO2 into our atmosphere?
Congratulations to Katherine Crocker, Leslie Decker, and Amanda Meier – they all successfully defended their doctoral dissertations in spring or summer of this year. All three are pursuing post-doctoral research. Katherine has moved to the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. Leslie has joined the Department of Biology at Stanford University. Amanda now works in the Department of Entomology at Washington State University. Three amazing scientists – many congratulations.
In fall of 2017, Mark was awarded a Distinguished University Professorship, named for UM Professor Emeritus, Earl E. Werner. Earl has had a distinguished career at UM, including pioneering studies of how predators influence prey population dynamics through changes in prey behavior. Earl has been a hero of Mark’s for a long time, and it’s an honor to hold the Professorship in his name.
Three undergraduates from our lab presented the results of their research this spring, with support from their grad student mentor, Amanda Meier.
Isabelle Katz was chosen to give an oral presentation at the Michigan Research Community Spring Symposium on how mycorrhizal fungi influence aphid populations by altering plant traits.
Tori Varnau presented her research at the UROP Spring Symposium on how mycorrhizae influence plant traits and affect natural insect colonization in the field.
Hannah Fuller also presented her research at the UROP Spring Symposium on how mycorrhizae and aphids interact to affect plant traits and was awarded a blue ribbon for her poster presentation.
Congratulations Isabelle, Tori, and Hannah on your excellent work. We’re proud of you.
Katherine Crocker’s star power as a research mentor was recognized in April 2017 at the Annual UROP Research Award Ceremony. Katherine was nominated by her students and recognized for her outstanding contributions to their academic development as young scholars and her interest in the students’ personal success. Fantastic job, Katherine. Many congratulations.
Kristel successfully defended her Master’s thesis in April. Her research has shown that Daphnia can gain some protection from fungal and bacterial parasites by exploiting certain toxins in their algal diets. Kristel is joining Meg Duffy’s lab this fall to explore medicinal diets in more detail as she enters our doctoral program. Kristel has received both an NSF Pre-Doctoral Fellowship and a Rackham Merit Fellowship to support her doctoral work. Congratulations Kristel!
On September 20, Mark gave the inaugural lecture for the Henry A. Gleason Collegiate Professorship at the University of Michigan. Mark was awarded the Gleason Professorship back in 2010, but the inaugural lecture was delayed until this year. The topic of the lecture was, “The Phytochemical Landscape: Linking Trophic Interactions and Nutrient Dynamics.” You can see a video of the lecture here.
After three years of writing, Mark’s new book appeared in late August. It’s called “The Phytochemical Landscape: Linking Trophic Interactions and Nutrient Dynamics,” and is published by Princeton University Press as one of their Monographs in Population Biology. The book explores how spatial and temporal variation in the chemistry of primary producers organizes the interactions that flow between consumers and ecosystem nutrient dynamics. You can find out more about the book here or here, and you can always buy your own copy at Amazon!
Callie received two highly prestigious awards and the opportunity to address her peers as she completed her undergraduate degree here at UM. She received the Christine Psujek Memorial Undergraduate Award for the best Honors thesis across all of the UM Biology Majors. Moreover, Callie was awarded the Marshall Nirenberg Award, the Goldstein Prize that is awarded to the top Honors student graduating in the Life Sciences at UM. Finally, Callie was chosen as one of the undergraduate speakers at the Honors Commencement Ceremony. Receiving all of these awards is truly remarkable. Many congratulations, Callie!
Congratulations to Johanna Nifosi, who successfully defended her Master’s Thesis in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology on April 20th. Johanna studied the effects of rising temperatures on the interactions between monarch butterflies and their parasites. Her work has shown that, when monarchs are co-infected with multiple parasites, the virulence of the protozoan parasite, OE, increases with temperature. In general, monarchs perform very well at higher temperatures, around 28 degrees centigrade. But, when co-infected with parasites, monarchs lose all of the gains that they receive from life in a warmer world. Overall, Johanna’s work suggests that, as global warming continues, any potential benefits that monarchs might gain could be eradicated by greater parasite virulence.