Current areas of research include 1) interactions between bottom-up forces (plant defenses) and top-down control (predators and parasitoids) of herbivores, 2) the influence of plant defenses on a community of organisms inluding insects and pathoens, and 3) the ecology of fear, how herbivores behaviorally and physiologically respond to the presence of predators. This research is conducted using crop plants in agricultural settings as well as their wild relatives in natural communities.
My research is focused in the area of chemical ecology by linking the mechanistic basis of species interactions with ecological consequences in field experiments. Plants must coordinate hormonally regulated responses to multiple biotic and abiotic stresses. My research group has been examining the consequences of these responses for tritrophic interactions in a behavioral and community context. The approach involves working with a diversity of insects and plant pathogens. We can manipulate plant physiochemical properties using a variety of novel techniques such as chemical elicitors and genetically modified plants and subsequently measure the effect on the plant phenotype by assaying defensive enzyme activity and resistance to plant parasites.