Our world is currently changing drastically. For example, with global climate change the intensity and frequency of extreme climate events like drought periods and heat waves are predicted to increase. Crop plants such as wheat thus need to cope with changes in both irrigation amount and frequency. We investigated how these two factors affect the growth and leaf chemical composition of wheat plants and how this in turn may influence interactions with other organisms such as aphid herbivores. Another aspect of global change are plant invasions. Comparisons of foliar metabolomes of plants originating from native and invasive populations grown under standardised conditions revealed interesting insights in potential invasion routes and mechanisms of plant adaptations to novel environments. Finally, pollutants such as heavy metals are contaminating soils. Some plants can deal with these pollutants and even accumulate high concentrations of heavy metals in their tissues. We studied the effects of heavy metal contamination in the soil on the chemical composition of aboveground tissues in Arabidopsis halleri and its consequences on interactions with herbivores. Using these three quite distinct examples, I will highlight how chemical ecological approaches can help us to understand consequences of global change on plant-herbivore interactions.
Caroline Müller is a chemical ecologist, who investigates the role of natural products in mediating interactions between plants, herbivorous insects and their antagonists as well as mutualistic partners. She focuses on the characterisation of such compounds, their plasticity in a changing environment and the elucidation of their functions in an ecological, behavioural and evolutionary context. She uses bioassays combined with chemical analytical approaches of target compounds and metabolomics to reveal chemical principles underlying ecological interactions. Caroline studied Biology and did her PhD at Free University Berlin (Germany). Afterwards, she did a post doc at Boyce Thompson Institute, Ithaca (USA) and at Leiden University (Netherlands), before she got appointed as assistant professor at Würzburg University from 2003 to 2007. In 2007, she became full professor at Bielefeld University.
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