Director of Undergraduate Studies
room: E445 Corson Hall
M.A. 1998, University of Wurzburg, Germany
Ph.D. 2002, Max Plank Institute for Chemical Ecology/University of Jena, Germany
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Other Cornell Affiliations:
Adjunct Assistant Scientist, Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research
Chemical ecology, plant-animal interactions, plant resistance, herbivory, plant behavioral ecology, insect herbivory, plant-pollinator interactions, plant secondary metabolism
I study the mechanisms and ecological consequences of plants induced responses to herbivore damage, including aspects of multi-trophic interactions, population ecology, phenotypic plasticity, plant-pollinator interactions and plant defense mechanisms against herbivores. More recently we focused our research on the ecological relevance of herbivore-induced changes in flower metabolism and morphology. In my lab we use chemical and molecular tools in manipulative field and laboratory experiments to understand the mechanisms of elicitation, signal transduction and defensive secondary metabolite production in plants, which are attacked by herbivores. The functional analysis of traits involved in the expression of induced plant responses of native species in their natural habitats may help to understand the evolution of plant defenses and eventually allows the utilization of the plants' own defenses in sustainable agriculture.
We use a number of different native plant systems in the lab. Currently we focus on plant model systems in the nightshade family (Solanaceae), including wild tobacco, Nicotiana attenuata, and wild tomato species (Solanum spp.). Moreover, we try to understand the chemical ecology of the complex interactions of goldenrod, Solidago altissima, with its diverse arthropod community.
Recent Courses Taught
- BioEE 3610 Advanced Ecology
- BioEE 3611 Field Ecology
- BioEE 3690 Chemical Ecology
- BioEE 7640 Plant-Insect Interactions Seminar
- BioEE 4460 Plant Behavior - Induced Plant Responses to Biotic Stresses
- BioEE 4461 Plant Behavior Lab
- BioEE 6750 Current Topics in Plant Molecular Ecology
Kessler, A. and M. Heil. 2011. The multiple faces of indirect defenses and their agents of natural selection. Functional Ecology DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2435.2010.01818.x
Halitschke, R., J. Hamilton, and A. Kessler. 2011. Herbivore-induced plant vaccination. Part III: Herbivore-specific elicitation of phytosynthesis as a mechanism to compensate for herbivory. New Phytologist (in press).
Mooney, K. A., R. Halitschke, A. Kessler, and A. A. Agrawal. 2010. Evolutionary tradeoffs in plants mediate the strength of trophic cascades. Science 327:1642-1644.
Parachnowitsch, A. L. and A. Kessler. 2010. Pollinators exert natural selection on flower size and floral display in Penstemon digitalis. New Phytologist 188:393-402.
Poveda, K., M. I. Gomez, and A. Kessler. 2010. The enemy as ally: herbivore-induced increase in crop yield. Ecological Applications 20:1787-1793.
Kessler, A. and R. Halitschke. 2009. Testing the potential for conflicting selection on floral chemical traits by pollinators and herbivores: Predictions and case study. Functional Ecology 23:901-902.
Kessler, A. and R. Halitschke. 2007. Specificity and complexity: The impact of herbivore-induced plant responses on arthropod community structure. Current Opinion in Plant Biology 10:409-414.
Kessler, A. and I. T. Baldwin. 2004. Herbivore-induced plant vaccination. Part I. The orchestration of plant defenses in nature and their fitness consequences in the wild tobacco Nicotiana attenuata. Plant Journal 38:639-649.
Kessler, A., R. Halitschke, and I. T. Baldwin. 2004. Silencing the jasmonate cascade: Induced plant defenses and insect populations. Science 305:665-668.
Kessler, A. and I. T. Baldwin. 2001. Defensive function of herbivore-induced plant volatile emissions in nature. Science 291:2141-2144.