Science Cafe will be a Zoom until further notice. It is recommended to register using the link beforehand.
Talk Title: Parasitic Plants and the Search for the Host with the Most
Dr. Caitlin Conn grew up in Central Pennsylvania, where she developed an early love for nature on her family’s farm and forests. As a biology major at Penn State, she conducted research on lizards from Caribbean islands and earned her Bachelor of Science degree in 2011. Next, she moved to the University of Georgia, where studied the genetics of parasitic plants and earned her PhD in 2017. After two postdocs (at Spelman College and Emory University), Caitlin joined the faculty of Berry College in the Department of Biology, and she runs a research lab there that focuses on local parasitic plants (such as false foxglove and bear corn) and American chestnut trees.
Description of the talk: Parasites are found throughout the tree of life, but for most people, the word “parasite” doesn’t conjure up an image of a plant. Even though the most famous (or notorious) parasites are those that cause disease in humans and other animals, parasitic plants are fascinating because of their diversity, their impact on farming, and their sometimes bizarre morphology. This talk presents a broad view of parasitism among plants, and then focuses on one amazing group: the Orobanchaceae. Some unique characteristics of parasitic plants – like a complete lack of chlorophyll, and the ability to eavesdrop on other plants’ messages to beneficial fungi – will be introduced, and the ecology, evolution, genetics, and agricultural impact of parasitic plants will be explored.