Environmental Sciences Ph.D. Program

Samantha Davis Receives a Second Botany-In-Action Fellowship

Samantha (Sam) Davis, a second-year ES Ph.D. student in the laboratory of Don Cipollini, has received a second competitive Botany-in-Action fellowship from Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh, PA. The award of $3000 will be used toward field research expenses for the project outlined below. In addition to the research award, Samantha will again participate in the Phipps Conservatory for Botany-in-Action Science Weekend, where she will receive science communication training, opportunities to engage with the public on her research, and networking opportunities with other Botany-in-Action fellows. The program manager, Molly Steinwald, indicated that Sam’s proposal persevered despite even fiercer competition this year.

Congratulations (again) to Sam!

Project Abstract - Rare organisms are often strongly affected by chance, disease, invasive species, and other factors. Pieris virginiensis (Pieridae), a rare woodland butterfly, uses the native mustards Cardamine diphylla, C. laciniata, C. multifada or Arabis laevigata as larval hosts. P. virginiensis may be adversely affected by the introduction of a related invasive mustard, Alliaria petiolata. Although apparently serving as an oviposition site, A. petiolata can inhibit feeding and survival of closely related Pierid larvae, and A. petiolata may compete with the normal host plants. I will investigate P. virginiensis oviposition rates and behavior on A. petiolata, as well as its normal host plants, in a variety of situations, evaluating the influence of oviposition cues such as host plant abundance, diversity, height, color, flowers, and volatile chemical cues. I will track larval survival on each of the potential host plants, including A. petiolata, profiling leaf chemical extracts and tracking future oviposition choices by P. virginiensis adult females. I will also examine predation, parasitism, and virus load on P. virginiensis caterpillars inhabiting each native host plant as well as the invasive competitor which may attract predators or parasites. Finally, I will examine competition between A. petiolata and the native host plants. I plan to present my findings to the public through scientific conferences, publications, public outreach, and the maintenance of a blog and website dedicated to the threats facing P. virginiensis and its normal larval host plants.