Biology Department

Dr. Kathryn Morris

Associate Professor, Biology

Dr. Morris studies the chemical ecology of plant interactions. This requires eavesdropping on the conversations that plants have with each other and with microbes and microinvertebrates in their environments. These conversations can be friendly when plants warn neighbors that dangerous herbivores or pathogens are in the area, or not so friendly when plants actually try to kill neighbors to reduce competition for resources. Plants have these conversations by producing a huge variety of chemicals called secondary metabolites and releasing them into the environment. Other organisms take up these secondary metabolites and alter their behavior as a result.

Current projects include developing a novel imaging technique to visualize the flow of plant secondary metabolites in the soil, exploring how tardigrade food web ecology is affected by plant secondary metabolites, and exploring how climate change will alter these interactions.

Dr. Morris and her research students use a variety of techniques to tackle these questions - including highly controlled plant growth experiments, novel chemotaxis assays, high performance liquid chromatography to identify and quantify the natural products produced by plants, and field sampling to establish and maintain tardigrade colonies in the lab. If you are interested in joining the research group, please contact Dr. Morris!