Opportunity for research on plant-insect interactions in summer 2019

The Lindroth Lab of Chemical Ecology is looking for a highly motivated undergraduate student in a biology-related major who would be interested in applying for a prestigious Hilldale undergraduate research fellowship to conduct a research project on aspen-insect interactions.

About the project: Condensed tannins are polyphenolic compounds that can occur in high concentrations in the leaves of aspen and many other tree species. Historically, condensed tannins have been considered as herbivore defense compounds. Little research, however, has actually demonstrated such effects. Current thinking about condensed tannins in aspen is that they provide resistance mainly against coleopteran species (beetles) but not against lepidopteran species (moths and butterflies).

Together with an undergraduate student, we would like to test that hypothesis. The student will learn how to conduct bioassays with different herbivores on aspen, how to analyze plant defense compounds via chemical assays, and how to analyze and present research results to the broader scientific community.

Qualifications: A highly motivated and reliable student interested in plant-insect interactions. Should have a GPA of at least 3.70 to be competitive for a Hilldale Fellowship. The student will work with us to write and submit a Hilldale Undergraduate Fellowship proposal (due Feb 11, 2019).

Contact: To express interest or inquire further about this opportunity, contact Dr. Mike Eisenring (eisenring@wisc.edu). Please do so as soon as possible, but no later than Jan 1, 2019.

Welcome to the Lindroth Lab, Mark Zierden!

The Lindroth Lab welcomes a new member to the lab, Mark Zierden. Mark is joining the lab after completing a PhD in Bioinorganic chemistry at Temple University where he studied trafficking and function of iron and titanium in organisms. He was also the Department of Chemistry’s mass spectrometrist while at Temple.

Mark will be taking over lab manager duties as well as pursuing some of his own research interests. Mark is interested in how plant chemistry affects decomposition and nutrient cycling. In his free time he enjoys woodworking and kayaking.

Graduate Research Assistantships Available

Graduate Research Assistantships: Genetic and environmental effects on forest ecosystem function

The research groups of Dr. Eric Kruger, Dr. Erika Marin-Spiotta, and Dr. Rick Lindroth anticipate funding to support two Masters graduate research assistantships at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, beginning fall 2019. The focus of our collaborative research is to assess the consequences of disturbance-mediated changes in aspen stand structure and genetic composition for forest ecosystem function. Ecosystem-level processes of interest include net primary productivity, litter decomposition, nitrogen cycling and soil organic matter dynamics.

See here for more details.


Lindroth Lab welcomes two new researchers to the lab

The Lindroth lab is happy to welcome two new researchers to the lab from Switzerland, Mike Eisenring and Noreen Giezendanner.

Here they are, already hard at work in the lab:

Noreen received a Bachelor’s degree from the Applied University of North-Western Switzerland. During her thesis she studied the anti-inflammatory potential of saffron corm extracts on human keratinocytes. In order to satisfy her interest in phytochemical assays and to get some more hands-on experience in laboratory work, Noreen conducts a variety of phytochemical and molecular biology analyses in the Lindroth lab. Noreen loves surfing the mountains and sushi.

Mike received a Ph.D. in Agroecology and Entomology from University of Bern, Switzerland in collaboration with Agroscope, the Swiss Federal Agricultural Research Institute. His dissertation focused on the impact of inherent and genetically engineered plant defense mechanisms for plant-herbivore interactions in cotton. In his post-doctoral work Mike studies the potential implications of polyploidy for trembling aspen affected by drought stress and herbivory. In his spare time Mike is interested in fishing, bugs and basketball.

Welcome to Madison Mike and Noreen!

The Lab says good-bye and good luck to two amazing graduate students

Graduate students Amy Flansburg (MS) and Hilary Barker (PhD) both successfully defended their theses this past spring. We congratulate them on their impressive accomplishments as graduate students and wish them the best in their future endeavors. Amy and Hilary, you will be missed!

Amy’s thesis is entitled “Trembling aspen triploid advantage has a physiological basis with geographic caveats.” She is now working as a biologist at Stantec Consulting, Inc. using herscientific expertise to help create more sustainable infrastructure and facilities projects.

Hilary’s dissertation is entitled “Linking plant genetics and environment to associated insect species and community composition”. She is currently working as a Senior Research Analyst helping to create insight from data to inform education practices and decisions in the Wisconsin Technical College System

Lindroth lab undergrads awarded prestigious undergraduate fellowships

The Lindroth lab is excited to have not one, but two undergraduate fellowship proposals awarded for this upcoming academic year. Tommy Matoska and Sam Jaeger, have been awarded the Sophomore Research Fellowship and the Holstrom Environmental Scholarship respectively.

Tommy, a sophomore, is majoring in biology with certificates in Environmental Studies and Global Health. He will be working with Jenn Riehl (a postdoc fellow) on a project entitled:  Uncovering the genetic architecture of chemical defense in Populus.

Sam, a senior, is majoring in environmental sciences. He will be working with Clay Morrow (graduate student) on a project entitled: A Test of Plant Allocation Theory: Implications for Plantation Forest Production.

Congratulations to both Sam and Tommy!


Olivia wins second place in the grad student paper presentation competition!

Our own Olivia Cope has been awarded second place in a graduate student paper presentation competition (Plant-Insect Interactions section) at the North Central Branch meeting of the Entomological Society of America in Madison, Wisconsin this week.

Her paper entitled “Clonal ramets of trembling aspen do not coordinate defense induction” shows that while clonal ramets of trembling aspen may share resources through vascular connections in their roots, they do not appear to coordinate defense induction through these connections.

Ned publishes aspen freeze study results

Ned Rubert-Nason has successfully published the results from his Aspen Freeze Study in Plant, Cell and Environment. The study showed that vernal freeze damage to aspen alters phytochemistry and plant-insect interactions (indicated by faster reproduction of aphids on trees with prior damage).

These results suggest that even a single damaging vernal freeze event can have long term consequences for plant-insect interactions through effects on plant growth and chemistry. Additionally, variable responses among genotypes suggests that increases in the frequency of vernal freeze events, like those predicted to occur in temperate regions, could influence natural selection. 

Much research has focused on immediate effects of climate change consequences for forest tree health, so this study helps fill a gap concerning cascading effects on trees and their associated communities as a result of a changing climate.


Amy receives prestigious George Kress Award for excellence in teaching!

Our own Amy Flansburg has been selected as the recipient of the Forest and Wildlife Ecology Department’s George Kress Award for Outstanding Contribution of a Forestry Graduate Student (and she receives $1000!). The award is given to a graduate student who has gone above and beyond contributing to the department’s mission “to provide science-based research, instruction, and extension that supports forest management in an ecologically, economically, and socially sustainable fashion”. Amy took on the sole responsibility of teaching Forest Ecology last fall and has been an advocate for undergraduate students in the department.

Congratulations Amy!