Knapweed project

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I have been worked with Dr. George Newcombe and Dr. Cort Anderson in the Dept. of Forest Resources at the University of Idaho on investigating the ecology and systematics of endophytes in Centaurea maculosa (spotted knapweed) in its native and introduced ranges, including controlled greenhouse experiments to determine interactions among plants, endophytes, and insects and molecular systematics of endophytic fungi. I also coordinated the collaborative effort, involving faculty in ecology, entomology, mycology, and systematics (Dr. Sanford Eigenbrode, Dr. Mark Schwarzlaender, Dr. Tim Prather).

Specific objectives of the project [modified from grant proposal]:

  1. Elucidation of the origin of the endophytes of C. maculosa (i.e., in either the native or the invaded range of C. maculosa itself) with sequence-based, phylogenetic tests. Origin is important because the «biogeographical source of the microbes» with which a plant interacts, can significantly affect the outcome of the host-symbiont interaction (Klironomos, 2002), and plant fitness (Callaway et al., 2004).
  2. In planta determinations of interactions between endophytes of C. maculosa and insects, including biocontrol insects that have deliberately been released for the control of spotted knapweed.
  3. In planta testing of the hypothesis of exclusive horizontal transmission of endophytes. Exclusive horizontal transmission of co-introduced fungi would have implications for plant quarantine policy and practice in the U.S. (Palm, 1999).
  4. Evaluate the compositional similarity among symbiont communities from the native and invaded ranges, using a new statistical approach (Chao et al., 2005). Plant invasiveness may depend on the presence or absence, or relative abundance of key symbionts (Klironomos, 2002); host age may affect endophyte loading of Centaurea plants. We would employ a new aging technique for Centaurea (Dietz, 2002); patches have already been mapped across the Idaho landscape (Lass et al., 2002) and in eastern Washington (Roche and Roche, 1988).

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