University of California, Davis, US

Rachel Vannette is a community ecologist interested in understanding and predicting how microbial communities influence interactions between plants and insects. She studies microbial communities in flowers, on insects, or in soil by combining natural history observations with techniques from chemical ecology, microbial ecology and community ecology.  Her work includes applied problems with an immediate application, for example pathogen control or how to landscape to support pollinators. Other questions may not have an immediate application but are nonetheless grounded in theory and will contribute to basic knowledge and conservation.

Plenary Lecture – Day 1 – Session 2: Exploring Interactions within Phytobiomes

Microbial Contribution to Plant-Insect Interactions


Plant-associated microbial communities not only affect plant phenotype and fitness but also can alter ecological interactions with other organisms. Microbial communities can directly affect plant physiology and growth and can metabolize plant compounds and produce novel compounds that are detectable to insects. In turn, microbial communities associated with plants can affect insect host plant selection, foraging behavior, and metabolism of plant tissues, with consequences for plant performance and fitness. In this talk, I will discuss a few of the ways in which microbial effects on plant phenotype can cascade to influence plant-herbivore and plant-pollinator interactions. Examples will include how rhizosphere microbial communities affect plant defense against herbivores, and how microbial growth in flowers affect pollinator behavior and plant reproduction. I conclude this talk by highlighting areas for future study.