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 the development of sustainable agricultural methods 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

 

The role of microorganisms in plant-pollinator interactions in Mānuka (Leptospermum scoparium) plants

Mānuka honey is an important export product of New Zealand due to its unique antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. We are using transcriptomics, chromatographic techniques and behavioural assays to investigate the role of floral microorganisms in nectar quality and their implications for pollination processes and honeybee health.

Exploring plant-arthropod interactions in NZ fern species

Ferns have a long evolutionary history of interacting with arthropods. The fact that they appear to be attacked less by arthropod herbivores than their angiosperm counterparts suggests they posses highly effective defence mechanisms. However, fern responses to herbivory are poorly understood. Our aim is to investigate the multiple defence mechanisms of NZ ferns to arthropod attack to find new (or rather very ancient) plant defence strategies that could be used to improve crop resistance to pests.

Conservation of orchid seeds

New Zealand orchids, like most orchid species, are endangered because of over collection 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.

Chemical ecology of the invasive weed Calluna vulgaris (heather) and its introduced biocontrol agent 

The invasive weed Calluna vulgaris a serious problem on the central plateau of the North Island of New Zealand. 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-insect interaction to provide important information for bio-control practitioners and to answer questions about why specialist insects are often difficult to establish, or don’t perform at maximum effectiveness, when introduced onto host plants in a new environment. 

Multitrophic interactions involving the Giant Willow Aphid

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 promotes the growth of sooty mould, attracts unwanted insects (such as wasps, ants, and flies), causes bee honey to crystalize (affecting apiculture) and alters soil composition and biota. Due to the extent of the invasion, eradication is no longer feasible, so there is a need to assess the environmental impact of this pest species and develop sustainable control strategies to mitigate it.

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.

 

Dr. Andrea Clavijo McCormick

Principal Investigator

I am an entomologist interested in understanding chemical communication among organisms and its underlying mechanisms. 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 defense 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.

PEER REVIEWED PAPERS

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

  • 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.

  • Effah, E., Barret, P., Peterson, P., Godfrey, J., Potter, M., Holopainen, J., Clavijo McCormick, A.L. Natural variation in volatile emissions of the invasive weed Calluna vulgaris in New Zealand (2020) Plants, doi:10.3390/plants9020283

  • Soriano, K., Clavijo McCormick, A.L.  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

  • Diantina, S., McGill, C., Millner, J., Nadarajan, J., Pritchard, H.W. and Clavijo McCormick, A. Comparative seed morphology of tropical and temperate orchid species with different growth habits (2020) Plants doi: 10.3390/plants9020161

  • Nakano, M., Morgan-Richards, M., Godfrey A.J.R., Clavijo McCormick, A.L. Parthenogenetic Females of the stick insect Clitarchus hookeri maintain sexual traits (2019) Insects doi:10.3390/insects10070202

  • 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

  • Clavijo McCormick, A.L., Irmisch, S., Boeckler, A., Gershenzon, J., Köllner, T.G., Unsicker, S. Herbivore-induced volatile emission from old-growth black poplar trees under field conditions (2019) Nature Scientific Reports doi:10.1038/s41598-019-43931-y

  • Clavijo McCormick, A.L., Arrigo, L., Eggenberger, H., Mescher, M., De Moraes, M.C. Divergent behavioural responses of gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) caterpillars from three different subspecies to potential host trees (2019) Nature Scientific Reports doi:10.1038/s41598-019-45201-3

  • Clavijo McCormick, A.L., Grosse-Wilde, E., Wheeler, D., Mescher, M., Hannson, B.S., De Moraes, M.C. Comparing the expression of olfaction-related genes in gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) adult females and larvae from one flightless and two flight-capable populations (2017) Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution doi:10.3389/fevo.2017.0001

  • Clavijo McCormick, A.L. Heyer, J. Sims, J. Mescher, M. De Moraes, C. Exploring the effects of plant odors, from tree species of differing host quality, on the response of Lymantria dispar males to female sex pheromones (2017) Journal of Chemical Ecology doi: 10.1007/s10886-017-0825-0

  • Shameer, K.S., Clavijo McCormick, A.L., Subaharan, K., Nasser, M. Volatile organic compounds in healthy and Opisina arenosella Walker (Lepidoptera: Oecophoridae) infested leaves of coconut palms (2017) Entomon 42(2): 121-132

  • Clavijo McCormick, A.L. Can plant–natural enemy communication withstand disruption by biotic and abiotic factors? (2016) Ecology and Evolution doi: 10.1002/ece3.2567

CONFERENCES AND SYMPOSIA

  • 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

 
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NEWS

Chemical Ecology Group Meetings

This month we are working on career planning and professional development. We will be taking the Clifton strengths test and discuss how we can use it for Post-garduate studies, team work and career planning.

Congratulations!

To Surya Diantina and Kyaw Min Tun, on successfully submitting their doctoral thesis and to Evans Effah for a successful oral examination!

 

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

+64 69518687

 

Address

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

Contact

+64 69518687

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