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Rachel Vannette: Unlocking the Mysteries of Flower Microbes

Article from Cal Ag Today featuring Professor Rachel Vannette from the Department of Entomology and Nematology.

By Kathy Keatley Garvey, Communications Specialist, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology

Rachel Vannette Seeks to Unlock the Mystery of Flower Microbes

Community ecologist Rachel Vannette of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seeks to unlock the mysteries of flower microbes: how do plants protect against them, and can bees benefit from them? 

“I am interested in understanding and predicting how microbial communities influence interactions between plants and insects,” she says. The Vannette lab “uses tools and concepts from microbial ecology, chemical ecology, and community ecology to better understand the ecology and evolution of interactions among plants, microbes and insects."

Now the UC Davis assistant professor has two more opportunities that will enable her to pursue her research: she recently received two National Science Federation (NSF) grants.

One is a five-year Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program award, titled “Nectar Chemistry and Ecological and Evolutionary Tradeoffs in Plant Adaptation to Microbes and Pollinators.” NSF grants CAREER awards to early career faculty “who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization,” a NSF spokesman said.

The other is a three-year collaborative grant, “The Brood Cell Microbiome of Solitary Bees: Origin, Diversity, Function, and Vulnerability.”

Vannette serves as a co-principal investigator with professor Bryan Danforth, Cornell University; research entomologist Shawn Steffan of the USDA's Agricultural and Research Service, University of Wisconsin; and assistant professor Quinn McFrederick, UC Riverside.

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