Chemical Ecology

Advancing the field through global influence

Collaborating internationally to re-synthesize, reinvigorate and advance chemical ecology by integrating technical and conceptual advances from multiple fields. Learn more about this unique program in the Great Basin.

Learn about the Chemical Ecology program

Nevada: A world leader in research at the unique interface between chemistry and biology

While the benefits of the research to health and agriculture are global, the impacts on Nevada are substantive. This center of excellence establishes Nevada as a world leader for conducting research at this unique interface between chemistry and biology.

  • The natural resources of Great Basin is illuminated through scientific and popular publications, community outreach, citizen science and museum exhibits.
  • The center brings international recognition to Nevada by serving as an epicenter to conduct chemical-ecology research and arid-land bioprospecting.
  • The job and economic benefits to the state of Nevada include direct employment of scientists and direct benefits to major employers in biotechnology, pharmaceutical and agricultural industries in Nevada. Partnership with industrial collaborators leads to recruitment of new companies to Nevada. Discoveries of new drug candidates and insecticides will stimulate the growth of related start-up companies and the licensing of University intellectual property rights.

Testing the most fundamental hypotheses in chemical ecology

The chemical ecology program faculty and students conduct research that tests the most fundamental hypotheses in chemical ecology. Theoretical predictions and very limited empirical data suggest that the associations between phytochemical diversity, biological activity, herbivore diversity,and pressure from natural enemies should be strong yet complex.

We test specific hypotheses about these relationships using a combination of statistical and other modeling approaches. The laboratory and analytical tools developed by our collaborative group coupled with access to stunning ecological diversity and museum collections will help us discover new phytochemicals, examine the genetic basis of phytochemical defense, and demonstrate how geographic variation in phytochemical diversity shapes ecological communities and microevolutionary processes.

Small suspension bridge into the rainforest.
Lee Dyer and two researchers in the forest.
Black and yellow stripped caterpillar crawling on a leaf.
Researcher in the desert sagebrush.

Chemical Ecology Program Outreach

Two researchers smiling while working in the rainforest.All PIs, senior personnel and students at the chemical ecology center participate in outreach efforts relevant to chemical ecology. These efforts are substantive and have been carefully developed with the help of funding agencies such as Earthwatch Institute.

  1. Existing K-12 outreach programs, such as pairing with teachers to develop genetics or chemistry teaching modules
  2. Teacher or student research experience groups (funded by Earthwatch Institute, NSF-RET supplements, and other sources)
  3. Creating public displays and associated outreach materials or events at the Univeristy museums.