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Plant-animal Interactions and Chemical Ecology

The study of chemically mediated organismal interactions has a long and successful history at Cornell. Within the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB), current research covers two major priority areas: plant-animal interactions and coral disease ecology. Our studies of plant-animal interactions aim to improve our understanding of the mechanistic basis of plant secondary metabolite and defensive protein production, the selective forces that drive their evolution, and their consequences for population dynamics and community structure. Similarly, ongoing research in coral reef chemical ecology utilizes physiological and genomic approaches to study the ecology and evolutionary biology of coral resistance to diseases.

The methods used and taught are as broad as the integrative field of Chemical Ecology and include molecular and chemical analytical techniques as well as laboratory and field bioassays to study the mechanisms and functions of chemical traits. A chemical analytical core facility as well as infrastructural resources dispersed across the individual labs allow the chemical ecologists at Cornell to use a broad spectrum of chemical analytical methods, including HPLC-MS, GC-MS, enzyme activity assays, etc.

The study of chemical ecology at Cornell has always included faculty in many different departments, in addition to EEB. Today, chemical ecologists at Cornell are networked through the Chemical Ecology Group and through a number of team-organized undergraduate and graduate courses.