This fall, a group of students in Dr. Kula’s Plant Ecology class have been conducting an experiment on the Southeast side of campus. The class is looking at groups of goldenrods, a flower indigenous to this area. Specifically, they are looking at the effect gall insects have on the goldenrod plants. Gall insects include flies, wasps, or moths that lay their eggs inside the stem of the plant. The incest produces a chemical that tells the plant to make a gall, which is an abnormal plant growth. The class is looking to better understand the pattern of these insects.
There are multiple sets of hypotheses that the class is testing. One set looks at where the mothers lay their eggs. One hypothesis suggests that the gall insects should lay their eggs on rapidly growing plants. The other hypothesis states that the mothers should lay their eggs in plants that are stressed or don’t have much water, this way the plant tissues will have higher concentration of nutrients to help the larva develop.
The other set of hypotheses involved the plant’s response to the gall. One thought is the plant will reduce flowering as a result from the galling. Another thought is that the galling will have no effect on the plant. The third and final possibility is that the plant will try to overcompensate for the galling and produce more flowers than usual.
The students are currently collecting their data, and will analyze it for greater details. It is uncertain what the outcome of this experiment will be. However, we are all very excited to see what this Plant Ecology class can learn from their research.