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WELCOME TO THE CHEMICAL ECOLOGY LAB @ MASSEY UNIVERSITY

Our research aims to understand the chemical mechanisms underlying plant-insect communication, and to apply this knowledge to biosecurity, sustainable agriculture, and the conservation of vulnerable species and their habitats. We are committed to producing excellent quality research and contributing to the advancement of chemical ecology in New Zealand.

 

RESEARCH

Unlocking the Mysteries of Chemical Communication

 
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Chemical ecology of the invasive weed Calluna vulgaris on the Central Plateau of North Island

The invasive weed Calluna vulgaris a serious problem on the central plateau of the North Island of New Zealand, affecting native species and their habitats. It's biocontrol agent, the heather beetle Lochmaea suturalis, was introduced in the 1990's but its establishment has proven to be challenging. We are investigating the chemical ecology of this plant and its biocontrol agent to provide important information to Iwi, land managers (DOC and NZ Army) and bio-control practitioners to mitigate its environmental impacts and optimise its biological control. 

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Native honeys and propolis

Bee products, like monofloral native honeys and propolis are important export products of New Zealand. We are using a wide variety of methods to increase our knowledge on the chemical constituents and biological activity of these products and the factors affecting them. For example, we are using metagenomics to explore the microbial communities in Mānuka nectar, and their role in dihydroxyacetone production. This molecule is the precursor of methylglyoxal, which has been linked to the high antimicrobial properties of Mānuka honey.

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Multitrophic interactions involving the Giant Willow Aphid 

Tuberolachnus salignus

The giant willow aphid (GWA), Tuberolachnus salignus, is an invasive pest species first recorded in New Zealand in 2013. Since then, it has spread rapidly, affecting over 50 species and hybrids of willow and poplar throughout the country. The GWA affects its surroundings in multiple ways, not only by reducing plant vigour, but by releasing copious amounts of honeydew that causes cascading effects on other trophic levels. We are investigating the complex ecological impacts if the giant willow aphid invasion and how to mitigate them.

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Conservation of orchid seeds

Most orchid species (including NZ orchids) are endangered because of overcollection and loss of habitat, so there is an urgent need to develop techniques to preserve them both in situ as well as ex situ. Seed morphology, physiology and biochemistry are important traits related to biological and ecological processes such as seed dormancy, germination, adaptation to habitat, dispersal and storability. Therefore, investigating seed traits is relevant to understanding the plant’s reproduction under natural conditions and to device optimal protocols for seed storage and propagation.

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Other projects

We are also involved in other exciting projects exploring different aspects of chemical ecology in a variety of systems. To know more please contact us.

Meet the team behind the Chemical Ecology @ Massey.

 
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Andrea Clavijo McCormick PhD

Team Lead

I am a chemical ecologist interested in understanding chemical communication among organisms in terrestrial ecosystems and the factors that affect it (such as biological invasions and climate change). Throughout my career, I have explored insect-insect and plant-insect interactions and the application of this knowledge in different contexts e.g. the use of insect pheromones for pest control, volatile-mediated direct and indirect defence in tree species and the evolution of olfactory preferences in polyphagous herbivores. I am committed to the advancement of chemical ecology in New Zealand.

SELECTED PUBLICATIONS

Here you will find information about the research publications to come out of the Chemical Ecology @ Massey. We’ve had many wonderful lab members be involved in a variety of different projects since we first started back in 2016, and are proud to showcase their hard work with the list of publications below.

SELECTED PUBLICATIONS

  • Effah, E., Min Tun, K., Rangiwananga, N., & Clavijo McCormick, A. (2022). Mānuka Clones Differ in Their Volatile Profiles: Potential Implications for Plant Defence, Pollinator Attraction and Bee Products. Agronomy, 12(1), 169.

  • Dinatina, S., McGill C., Millner, J., Nadarajan, J., Pritchard, H.W., Colville, L.,  Clavijo McCormick, A. (2021). Seed viability and fatty acid profiles of six orchid species before and after ageing. Plant Biology. http://doi.org/10.1111/plb.13345 

  • Effah, E., Barrett, D. P., Peterson, P. G., Potter, M. A., Holopainen, J. K., & Clavijo McCormick, A. (2021). Seasonal volatile emission patterns of the endemic New Zealand shrub Dracophyllum subulatum on the North Island Central Plateau. Frontiers in Plant Science. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2021.734531

  • Barret, D.P., Fowler, S.V., Subbaraj, A.K., Groenteman, R. & Clavijo McCormick, A. (2021)  Metabolomic analysis of host plant biochemistry could improve the effectiveness and safety of classical weed biocontrol. Biological Control. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocontrol.2021.104663

  • Jones, T. G., Min Tun, K., Minor, M., & Clavijo McCormick, A. (2021). The giant willow aphid (Tuberolachnus salignus) and its effects on the survival and growth of willows. Agricultural and Forest Entomology. https://doi.org/10.1111/afe.12443

  • Tun, K. M., Clavijo McCormick, A., Jones, T., & Minor, M. (2021) Seasonal abundance of Tuberolachnus salignus and its effect on flowering of host willows of varying susceptibility. Journal of Applied Entomology. https://doi.org/10.1111/jen.12866

  • Tun, K. M., Minor, M., Jones, T., & Clavijo McCormick, A. (2020). Effect of willow cultivar and plant age on the melezitose content of giant willow aphid (Tuberolachnus salignus) honeydew. Agricultural and Forest Entomology. https://doi.org/10.1111/afe.12428

  • Diantina, S., Kartikaningrum, S., Clavijo McCormick, A., Millner, J., McGill, C., Pritchard, H. W., & Nadarajan, J. (2020). Comparative in vitro seed germination and seedling development in tropical and temperate epiphytic and temperate terrestrial orchids. Plant Cell, Tissue and Organ Culture (PCTOC), 143(3), 619-633.

  • Effah, E., Barrett, D. P., Peterson, P. G., Potter, M. A., Holopainen, J. K., & Clavijo McCormick, A. Seasonal and environmental variation in volatile emissions of the New Zealand native plant Leptospermum scoparium in weed-invaded and non-invaded sites (2020). Scientific Reports, 10(1), 1-11

  • Effah, E., Barrett, D. P., Peterson, P. G., Godfrey, A. J. R., Potter, M. A., Holopainen, J. K., & Clavijo McCormick, A. Natural variation in volatile emissions of the invasive weed Calluna vulgaris in New Zealand (2020). Plants, 9(2), 283.

  • Effah, E., Barrett, D. P., Peterson, P. G., Wargent, J. J., Potter, M. A., Holopainen, J. K., & Clavijo McCormick, A. Herbivory and attenuated UV radiation affect volatile emissions of the invasive weed Calluna vulgaris (2020). Molecules, 25(14), 3200.

  • Tun, K.M., Clavijo McCormick, A., Jones, T., Minor, M. The potential of harlequin ladybird beetle Harmonia axyridis as a predator of the giant willow aphid Tuberolachnus salignus: Voracity, life history and prey preference  (2020) BioControl, 1-9.

  • Tun, K. M., Clavijo McCormick, A., Jones, T., Garbuz, S., & Minor, M. (2020). Honeydew deposition by the giant willow aphid (Tuberolachnus salignus) affects soil biota and soil biochemical properties. Insects, 11(8), 460.

  • Diantina, S., McGill, C., Millner, J., Nadarajan, J., Pritchard, H. W., & Clavijio McCormick, A. (2020). Comparative seed morphology of tropical and temperate orchid species with different growth habits. Plants, 9(2), 161.

  • Soriano, K., Clavijo McCormick, A. Volatile emissions of six New Zealand fern species in response to physical damage and herbivory (2020) New Zealand Journal of Ecology doi:10.20417/nzjecol.44.5

  • Effah, E., Holopainen, J., Clavijo McCormick A.L. Potential roles of volatile organic compounds in plant competition (2019) Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics doi:10.1016/j.ppees.2019.04.003

CONFERENCES AND SYMPOSIA

  • Tun, K.M., Jones, T., Minor, M. Clavijo McCormick, A. Economic and impacts of the Giant Willlow Aphid invasion in New Zealand. NZ-China Horticultural Conference. Palmerston North, NZ, February, 2022.

  • Effah, E., Barrett, D. P., Peterson, P. G., Potter, M. A., Holopainen, J. K., & Clavijo McCormick, A. Plant Volatiles in Invasion Scenarios. 36th Annual Meeting of the International Society of Chemical Ecology, Stellenbosch, SA, August 2021.

  • Tun, K.M., Jones, T., Minor, M. Clavijo McCormick, A. Ecological impacts of the Giant Willlow Aphid Tuberolachnus salignus. 69th Entomological Society of New Zealand Conference. Dunedin, NZ, April 2021.

  • Effah, E., Barrett, D. P., Peterson, P., Potter, M. A., Holopainen, J. K. and Clavijo McCormick, A.L. Emission of volatile organic compounds by mānuka in response to conspecifics, native and invasive species. New Zealand Ecological Society Meeting. Lincoln, NZ, Dec 2019

  • Effah, E; Barret, P., Peterson, P; Potter, M; Holopainen, J., Clavijo McCormick, A.L. Neighbours matter: Community effects on plant-volatile emissions, X Conference of the Asia and Pacific Association of Chemical Ecologists. Hangzhou, CN, Oct 2019

  • Tun, K.M., Minor, M.A., Jones, T., and Clavijo McCormick, A.L. Complex ecological impacts of the giant willow aphid invasion in New Zealand, New Zealand Ecological Society Meeting. Lincoln, New Zealand, Dec 2019

  • Tun, K.M., Minor, M.A., Jones, T., and Clavijo McCormick, A.L. Complex ecological impacts of the giant willow aphid invasion in New Zealand, X Conference of the Asia and Pacific Association of Chemical Ecologists. Hangzhou, CN, Oct 2019

  • Tun, K.M., Minor, M.A., Jones, T., and Clavijo McCormick, A.L. Host-mediated differences in quantity and chemical composition of honeydew of the giant willow aphid, Tuberolachnus salignus, Apiculture New Zealand Conference & Trade Exhibition. Rotorua, NZ, Jun 2019

  • Bresciano J.C., Gagic D., Pattemore D.E., Robertson AW., Clavijo McCormick A.L. Metabarcoding and genomic insights into Mānuka (Leptospermum scoparium) nectar microorganisms, Empowering agricultural research through metagenomic-workshop. Kasetsart University, Bangkok, TH, Jun 2019

  • Effah, E., Barrett, D. P., Peterson, P., Potter, M. A., Holopainen, J. K. and Clavijo McCormick, A.C. Emission of Biogenic Volatile Organic Compounds affected by competition in natural scenarios. New Zealand Ecological Society Meeting. Wellington, NZ, Nov 2018

  • Soriano, K., Clavijo McCormick A.L. Smelly ferns: Investigating responses to herbivory in ancient plants, New Zealand Ecological Society Meeting. Wellington, NZ, Nov 2018

  • Tun, K.M., Minor, M.A., Jones, T., and Clavijo McCormick, A.L. The role of plant volatiles in giant willow aphid (GWA) interactions with its host plants, New Zealand Ecological Society Meeting. Victoria University of Wellington. NZ, Nov 2018

  • Bresciano J.C., Gagic D., Pattemore D.E., Robertson A.W., Clavijo McCormick A.L. The nectar-microbial loop in Mānuka plants: microbial composition and its effect on DHA production. New Zealand Ecological Society Meeting. Wellington, NZ, Nov 2018

  • Nakano, M., Trewick, S., Morgan-Richards, M. Clavijo McCormick, A.C. Mate choice and sexual communication in the New Zealand stick insect Clitarchus hookeri New Zealand Ecological Society Meeting. Victoria University of Wellington. NZ, Nov 2018

  • Bresciano J.C., Gagic D., Pattemore D.E., Robertson A.W., Clavijo McCormick A.L. The nectar-microbial loop in Mānuka plants: microbial composition and its effect on DHA production. Omic approaches in biofilm research-workshop. University of Gotheborg, Sweden, Sep, 2018.

  • Diantina, S., Kartikaningrum, S., Pritchard, H. W., Clavijo McCormick A.L., Millner, J., McGill, C. Nadarajan, J. In vitro germination and cryopreservation of Dendrobium: A comparative study on Indonesian and New Zealand orchids. (International Conference on Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (ICGRB). Bogor, ID, Mar 2018

  • Diantina, S., Millner, J., McGill, C. Clavijo McCormick A.L., Nadarajan, J., Pritchard, H. W. Seed characteristics and germination of some Indonesia and New Zealand orchids, The Native Seed Science, Technology and Conservation Initial Training Network (NASSTEC) International Conference. London, UK, Sept 2017

  • Diantina, S., Millner, J., McGill, C. Clavijo McCormick A.L., Nadarajan, J., Pritchard, H. W. Seed micro-morphometric and quantity of air trapped in three Dendrobium species, Plant Science Conference. Palmerston North, NZ, Jun 2017

 

CONTACT US

Thanks for your interest in our research. Get in touch with us for any questions or comments regarding our work and publications. We’d love to hear from you.

Massey University
School of Agriculture and Environment
Tennent Dr, Massey University, Palmerston North 4474, New Zealand

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