MIE welcomes Dongik Chang to the group
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Dongik Chang, has recently joined the Molecular Interaction Ecology (MIE) group as a research assistant and to write her MSc thesis. Dongik studied environmental health science in South Korea and is currently studying her Master in Evolution, Ecology and Systematics at FSU Jena.
Preservation of biodiversity in agricultural lands, nature and urban areas is severely threatened by overuse of pesticides. Dongik is passionate about the protection of biodiversity and inspired by the EU’s Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, she aims to contribute to the reduction of pesticide use. To reach this goal, Dongik strongly believes that understanding the complex interactions among microbes, plants and insects is the key.
In recent years, it has become clear that beneficial microbial symbionts such as mycorrhizal fungi help plants not only by increasing their resistance to abiotic stresses like nutrient deficiency and drought, but also to biotic stresses like insect herbivores and pathogens. Beneficial microbes therefore have the potential to play an important role in integrated pest management strategies and consequently in reducing pesticide use in agricultural practices.
In her MSc project will study how beneficial microbes can help increase plant defenses against insect herbivores. She aims to unravel the chemical and molecular mechanisms that regulate direct and indirect defense of tomato plants inoculated with beneficial microbial symbionts such as arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) or the ascomycete Trichoderma harzianum. To do so, Dongik will infest microbial-inoculated tomato plants with the generalist herbivore Spodoptera exigua, commonly known as the beet armyworm. She will study the induction of indirect defenses of inoculated tomato plants by analyzing their Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) blends. Afterwards she will study whether these blends are attractive to the generalist predatory mirid bug Macrolophus pygmaeus. In addition,Dongik will look at the induction of direct defenses by studying the expression of defense-related genes.
During her stay at MIE Dongik is supervised and assisted by Dimitra Papantoniou. The project is part of the EU’s Marie Skłodowska Curie International Training Network (ITN) in Microbe-Induced Resistance against herbivores (MiRA).