Elizabeth Pringle: Plant resource stress impacts on food webs

Elizabeth Pringle

Title

Plant Resource Stress Impacts on Food Webs

Mentor

Elizabeth Pringle, Ph.D.

Department

Biology

Bio sketch

The Pringle lab is interested in the ecology of plant-animal interactions. Specifically, we seek to understand how plant chemistry mediates the connection between food webs and nutrient cycles in the context of global change. We are particularly interested in the chemical mechanisms underlying beneficial interactions between species (mutualisms), and in how these mechanisms are affected by climate change, invasive species, and overhunting. Visit The Pringle Lab website for more information.

Project overview

The project will focus on the question: how does resource stress on plants affect food webs indirectly? Plants are the base of food webs in land systems, which means that plant chemistry affects not only the plant’s direct consumers (herbivores) but also their indirect consumers (predators, microbes, etc.). Plants require water and nutrients to grow, and changes in the quantity of these resources cause stress that can change plant chemistry. In Nevada, water is frequently limited, and nitrogen is often added through human activities like farming. We will thus seek to determine how changes in resource levels change plant chemistry, and how this changed chemistry can affect even organisms like predators and bacteria, which appear peripherally related to plants. This research will produce novel insights into the effects of global change on biodiversity. Students will learn experimental design, plant and insect husbandry in the greenhouse, analyses of plant chemistry, and statistical analyses. They will also join a dynamic group of postdocs, graduate students, and other undergraduate students asking similar questions in parallel systems.