Examining plant-herbivore interactions and their impact on indirect interactions between herbivores - Whitney Gabbert

Published: April 6, 2017
Gabbert surveys a tranquil lake.

I have loved plants, wildlife, and nature since my childhood, so choosing to go into ecology was a no-brainer for me. From alpine biocrusts to tropical rainforests, I am interested in every aspect ecology has to offer. My current research for my honors thesis is in Dr. Katharine Suding’s lab under the supervision of Dr. Josh Grinath. This research focuses on the interactions that occur between spittlebugs (Clastoptera lineatocollis) and alkali goldenbush (Isocoma acradenia) on the Carrizo Plain in California, as well as how these interactions may indirectly affect other herbivores in the system. I am measuring biomass, water concentration, and nitrogen concentration for goldenbush samples with and without spittlebugs present. Furthermore, I am traveling to the field site over spring break to assist in further experimental studies and experience plant-herbivore interactions firsthand. This research could have implications for crop management, as spittlebugs also occur on commercial walnut trees and may facilitate further herbivory. I also work in Dr. Nichole Barger’s lab under the supervision of Ph.D. student Caroline Havrilla, where we are conducting a meta-analysis of findings on plant-biocrust interactions across several studies. Once I graduate in May 2018, I intend to apply to a postgraduate program to get my Ph.D. and pursue a career in tropical forest restoration.