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Floral traits and pollinator-mediated interactions in a changing environment.

Graduate Student Seminar Series | Diana Michael | Mar 11, 2024

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Extreme weather events such as droughts, and heat waves, which are caused by climate change, can have a profound impact on the reproductive success and fitness of plants. These events disrupt floral physiological processes and plant-pollinator networks, posing significant challenges to both croplands and natural tropical ecosystems. Although the detrimental effects on yield are well-documented, our understanding of the various mechanisms utilized by animal-pollinated species to adapt or respond to these changing conditions remains limited. In my study, I aim to investigate how changes in soil moisture at the microhabitat level as well as landscape level affect floral traits and the reproductive success of plants in semi-arid and arid ecosystems. Furthermore, I am interested in examining the role of spatial neighborhoods in mediating these effects. My work addresses these using a combination of field observations and controlled experiments under semi-natural conditions. Preliminary experiments mimicking drought conditions in a Solanum species revealed that exposure to drought reduced the overall flower attractiveness in these plants. At a community level, the effect of moisture levels on floral traits and consequently pollination was defined by species attributes. I will elaborate on the complex interplay of factors that explain these relationships. During this talk, I will give an overview of the progress made in addressing these questions in the past year and discuss my upcoming plan.  

About Speaker:

Diana is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Dr. Shivani Krishna’s lab at the Department of Biology, Ashoka University. Her interests lie in the ecology of plant-animal interactions and how they change with the changing environment. Before joining Ashoka, she completed her B.Sc and Master’s degree in Botany from St. Teresa’s College, Ernakulam under Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, Kerala.

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