My postdoctoral work explores how closely interacting species communicate and is part of a larger project conceived by Dr. Sharlene Santana, Dr. Jeff Riffell and Dr. Lilliana Davalos.
Piper is a remarkably diverse genus of herbs, vines, lianas, shrubs and small trees comprised of nearly 2000 species worldwide. Over two-thirds of these species are found in the Neotropics. In fact, the genus Piper is one of the 10 most speciose genera in Neotropical forests.
As part of my postdoctoral work I am using dynamic headspace adsorption and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry techniques to characterize the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) of 35 Piper species found at La Selva Biological Field Station in Costa Rica.
This work is ongoing, but preliminary results suggest that the scents of ripe fruit, unripe fruit and vegetation are more similar within than among Piper species, but the scent bouquets of each plant part are also distinct.
photo by Ada Kaliszewska