Jane is a plant biologist with a particular interest in cell signalling. Cell signalling is how 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.
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:
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:
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
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 is part of the Senior Management Group of the Department.
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
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. We have 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 (Worrall et al., 2012). Our current focus is to try to understand this priming process at the molecular level, using an array of molecular and biochemical techniques (BBSRC)
B. Biogenic volatile organic chemicals (VOCS) as signals of biotic stress
Using a transgenic approach, we have shown that herbivores can detect and respond to isoprene produced by plants (Laothawornkitkul et al., 2008), and can be deterred from feeding. Isoprene is a major VOC in the environment that many, but not all plants produce. We are interested in determining if the ability to detect and respond to isoprene is a widespread insect trait, and what the implications are for plant-insect interactions for plant species that do, and do not, produce isoprene (BBSRC DTG)
b) VOC profiles
We are also interested in determining the feasibility of using VOC profiles to identify early onset pathogen and herbivore attack, ultimately with a view developing both instruments and techniques that can be deployed in the field/glasshouse environment (BBSRC Industrial Case award, with Ionicon Analytic, Innsbruck)
C. Science policy
Research in collaboration with staff in the ESRC Centre for Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics (Cesagen) at Lancaster aims to examine the practical implications for environmental knowledge and life sciences policy, of commercialization processes within plant genomics research.
Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings › Chapter (peer-reviewed)
Research output: Contribution to journal › Journal article
Activity: Conference participation › Participation in conference
Activity: External academic engagement › Contribution to the work of national or international committees and working groups
Activity: External academic engagement › Research and Teaching at External Organisation