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photo taken by Al Goldis

Research Overview

Flowers of many plants attract pollinators by producing volatile compounds.  The scent emitted by such flowers is often a complex mixture of organic compounds. Insects are able to distinguish between complex floral scent mixtures. Discriminatory visitation based on floral scent has important implications for population structure and reproductive success of plant species, and in agriculturally important species, to seed and fruit set. Plants also produce volatile compounds to protect themselves against animal herbivores. Many of the chemicals produced in floral and vegetative tissues are utilized by humans as food flavorants and in the production of perfumes and medicinals. My lab investigates the biochemical pathways involved in the production of plant volatiles, the enzymes that catalyze them, and the genes that encode these enzymes. Genetic engineering of plants with such genes could result in the introduction of new scents and flavors into various plant species.