Grad Students 2020

Emily Tronson

Hungry tobacco hornworm munching on a tomato leaf during Emily’s Summer 2020 field experiment at Meigs

Emily Tronson is from Woodland Hills, California. She received her B.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and B.A. in English Literature from the University of Rochester. Emily came to Purdue in 2019 as a research technician in the Kaplan Lab. The following year, she began a M.S. position with Drs. Laramy Enders and Ian Kaplan, examining the role of the plant rhizosphere in tolerance to herbivory.  

The rhizosphere is a diverse community of microorganisms living around plant roots that can impact major aspects of plant physiology, including defense again insect herbivores. Under the umbrella of plant defense, tolerance is resistance’s indispensable counterpart. Both seek to minimize herbivore damage, but where resistance targets insect biology and behavior, tolerance targets plant traits. Because of this, tolerance avoids tempting insect resistance, making it a valuable and underutilized strategy in pest management.  

Emily is using wild and domesticated tomatoes fed upon by the specialist tobacco hornworm to explore what rhizosphere community characteristics associated with plant tolerance to herbivory. She plans to compare the rhizospheres of tolerant tomatoes in order to develop a snapshot of a tolerant rhizosphere. Research like this may inform the integration of evolutionarily sustainable traits into plant breeding efforts and the development of tolerance-conferring microbial amendments. 

Sweet little hornworms enjoying tasty tomato plants

For more background on the project and people involved, visit: 

Plant-Insect Microbiomes Laboratory Website 

Insect Ecology Laboratory Website 

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@enders_lab 

@Kaplan_Lab 

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