Chemical Ecology and the Hi-Tech Greenhouse

I almost stopped my Vespa in the middle of the road when I saw this shot. I've seen a lot of greenhouses on campus but this one is a startling structure. I was on my way to the Chemical Ecology Lab to photograph Dr. Tom Baker for a story on his recent designation as a Fellow by the Entomological Society of America when I saw the greenhouse. After I photographed Dr. Baker I returned to make this photograph.

A few questions during the shoot with Dr. Baker and I had a bit of information about the greenhouse and what it is used for. And that I couldn't go inside. Plants inside are carefully isolated so that no diseases are present. Researchers and graduate students will infect a plant with a disease and then study the volatile gases given off by the plant when it is stressed. Or when an insect pest is introduced. For instance, if a caterpillar attacks a plant it gives off a specific chemical which signals to caterpillar parasites to pay the plant a visit. Understanding these chemical communications between plants and insects will help build better ways to manage pests and diseases.

The work taking place in this greenhouse is part of the research projects developed by Dr. James H. Tumlinson. Dr. Tumlinson is the Director of the Chemical Ecology Lab and the recipient of the 2008 Wolf Prize for Agriculture.


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