March 29, 2021
IGC fellow Lauren Maynard, PhD candidate in Susan Whitehead’s lab, has received a NSF Non-Academic Research Internships for Graduate Students (INTERN) award to support an internship with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. During the six-month internship, which begins this summer, she will work on a collaborative research project with senior scientist John Parker and participate in mentoring and outreach activities within the Smithsonian Institution.
As a scientist, Lauren is interested in plant-animal interactions and the chemical mechanisms that mediate them. Her dissertation research aims to understand the ecological consequences and functional roles of plant chemistry in multi-species interactions with both mutualists and antagonists. During her internship at SERC, she will focus on the interaction among plants, invertebrate herbivores, and vertebrate predators. When attacked by an insect herbivore, plants emit complex chemical cues—herbivore-induced plant volatiles (HIPVs). HIPVs are commonly used as foraging cues by invertebrate carnivores, and there is mixed evidence that they are used by birds. However, it is unknown if insectivorous bats use HIPVs as foraging cues. The primary objective of her project is to examine the ecological role of HIPVs in insectivorous bat and bird foraging.
Lauren is excited for how this internship will position her to work at the interface between basic and applied science and to translate current advances in chemical ecology to agriculture and conservation. After completing her Ph.D., Lauren aims to work for a natural history museum in a position that combines research with outreach and extension. This NSF INTERN award and project with the Smithsonian Institute will bolster her career goals by providing experiences to work directly with agriculture, research and extension farms, as well as growers in the surrounding communities, and to hone her science communication skills.