Amy Parachnowitsch

Evolutionary Ecology, Plant-Animal Interactions, Floral Evolution

Amy Parachnowitsch

Research Interests:

My research focuses on the evolutionary ecology of plant-pollinator interactions. The incredible diversity of flowering plants has long motivated researchers to dissect and understand this variation. Pollinators play an important role in reproduction of outcrossing plants and thus have received a lot of attention in understanding floral evolution. Inspired by the diversity of flowers and their interactions with both pollinators and other organisms, in my research group, we seek to address how and why floral traits evolve. Broadly we study evolution of floral traits, pollinator behaviour, and floral chemical ecology. We use a variety of systems depending on the questions and work mainly in Sweden and North America.

Ongoing Research:


Studies of natural selection allow us to understand the process of evolution. We interested in how ecological processes can lead to evolutionary change. We use floral traits as models to understand links between ecology and evolution and as a platform for understanding plant diversity with a particular interest in plant-animal interactions. Within this topic we study a wide variety of topics. These include understanding what traits are the targets of selection, the roles of agents of selection on floral traits, such as pollinators and herbivores, and variation in selection over space and time. We are also interested in how selection may act on trait correlations and potential constraints to evolution.


Classic studies of floral evolution and ecology have often focused on visual and morphological traits, while floral scent studies have remained somewhat separate. In our group we seek to blend expertise, techniques and theory from both traditions to understand floral phenotypes in a more integrated fashion. By examining more aspects of floral characters we strive to answer: 1. What traits drive particular interactions? 2. What ecological contexts are particular traits more important? 3. How relevant is correlational selection on floral traits? 4. What are the relationships between floral signals and rewards?


Olfactory cues can be important to floral insect visitors. Although volatile organic compounds have been identified for many flowering plants, our understanding of basic phenotypic variation and evolutionary ecology of scents in the wild is relatively (to severely) limited. As the field develops experimental protocols and statistical techniques to sample and handle floral scents from large numbers of plants, we are able to ask more in depth questions about variation in floral scents such as: 1. How variable are floral scents within and among species? 2. What are the patterns of floral scent emission, within flowers and over time? 3. How much variation in floral scents is heritable? In our group we also are exploring the functional roles of particular floral scents.

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