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  • Writer's pictureAlison Ravenscraft


I am thrilled and honored to announce that I was awarded an NSF CAREER grant to study the prevalence, magnitude, and importance of gut microbial detoxification of plant defenses in insect herbivory. This grant will fund an investigation of whether, how, and how often bacteria living in the guts of grasshoppers, beetles and caterpillars help these insects eat plants by breaking down the poisons plant use to protect themselves. This phenomenon of symbiont-mediated detoxification has been frequently proposed as possibility, but rarely tested and never comprehensively addressed beyond one or a few insect species. Our goal will be to study this phenomenon broadly across the three main groups of chewing insect herbivores. The big question we'll try to answer is "Does detoxification of plant poisons by the insect gut flora meaningfully affect insect herbivory at the ecosystem level?"

This is a question I've been excited about since the later half of my PhD, and I'm so grateful and excited we've been given the opportunity to take a crack at it. If you're also interested in answering this question, contact me (Dr. R) about opportunities to join the lab!

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