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Dr Jane Taylor

Senior Lecturer

Jane Taylor

Lancaster University

LEC Building

LA1 4YQ

Lancaster

Tel: +44 1524 593598

Research overview

Senior Lecturer

Jane is a plant biologist with a particular interest in cell signalling. Cell signalling is the mechanism by which plants translate the information they gain from the environment, and turn it into a change in cellular processes and gene expression, so that they can positively adapt to their environment. In an era of climate change and extreme weather events it has never been more important to understand how plants respond to and cope with such events if we are to secure plant and crop production to feed an ever-growing global population. Jane is particularly interested in how plants protect themselves against pests and diseases and how we can harness the knowledge of natural plant defence systems to develop novel ways to protect crop plants.

Published research

With a career spanning nearly three decades Jane has a diverse publication record that charts her changing scientific interests over that time frame. Subjects covered include:  abscission, the process by which plants shed organs; cell signalling processes that underpin stomatal guard cell function; and more lately the role of the signalling compound, Jasmonic Acid, in the resistance by plants to pest attack.

Jane has received funding for her research from a range of funding bodies including:

  • Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
  • Biological and Biotechnological Science Research Council (BBSRC)
  • Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
  • Research Councils UK (RCUK)

Current Research

Jane’s is part of the Plant and Crop Science Research Group at the Lancaster Environment Centre. Her current research projects are focussed in two areas:

  • How plant produced volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) change in response to biotic and abiotic environmental stimuli and how these VOCs influence plant pest and predator behaviour (BBSRC-funded studentship)
  • A University wide RCUK-funded project that aims to develop a School-University Partnership (SUP) with schools in Cumbria to enthuse the next generation of researchers

Teaching

Jane delivers teaching both for the Lancaster Environment Centre and for the Division of Biomedical and Life Sciences, in the Faculty of Health and Medicine at Lancaster. This includes lectures, workshops and practical teaching on:

Jane has contributed to a Massive Open Online Course in Food Security, and is the Co-Director of an online professional development programme, co-designed and supported by Waitrose, entitled 'Food Challenges for the 21st Century'.

Roles

Jane is currently a member of the

At Lancaster Jane is a member of University Council and within the Lancaster Environment Centre (LEC) she is Associate Director for Undergraduate Strategy and Admissions and Deputy Director. 

PhD supervision

a. Priming of plant defence
b. The role of volatile organic chemicals in plant defence
c. Novel methods for the early detection of plant biotic attack

Current Research

Research is focused in three areas:

A. Priming of plant defence

Jasmonic acid is a signalling compound that increases in plants in response to herbivore attack. My lab has shown that applying jasmonic acid to seeds can ‘prime’ the plants that subsequently grow and develop, enabling them to respond more effectively to biotic attack. Our current focus is to try to understand this priming process at the molecular level, using an array of molecular and biochemical techniques.

B. Biogenic volatile organic chemicals (BVOCS) as signals of biotic stress

(i) BVOC profiles from primed plants

BVOC profiles are specific to different plant species, and change in response to pest attack. My lab is investigating if primed plants have a different volatile signature that influences plant-herbivore interactions, either between plants and pests, or plants and beneficial insect species.

(ii) BVOC profiles as markers of pest attack

I am interested in determining the feasibility of using BVOC profiles to identify early onset pathogen and herbivore attack, ultimately with a view to developing both instruments and techniques that can be deployed in the field/glasshouse environment.

 (ii) BVOC profile perturbation in response to environmental change

BVOCs are released by plants as part of an indirect defence response against pest attack. Current work is determining if changes in the environment e.g. increasing ozone concentrations alter the chemical composition of the BVOC profile which in turn alters plants’ capacity to mount an effective defence response.

C. School-University Partnerships

Through RCUK funding I am exploring how we can engage and train early career researchers to describe their research, and the conditions and factors which deliver sustainable, effective School-University research partnerships.

 

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