Seminar on Plant Defenses

mmphillips at STKATE.EDU mmphillips at STKATE.EDU
Thu Jul 15 15:40:35 EST 1999

I'm looking for suggestions for papers on plant defenses (especially chemical
defenses) for a seminar course.

Our Biology Senior Seminar is a capstone course where the goals are for students
to continue development of their library research skills, critical thinking in
the use of the scientific literature, skills in oral presentation, and writing
skills through informal writing assignments and multiple drafts of formal
writing.   The biology faculty rotate through the course and each faculty member
generally chooses an overall topic of interest to them or within their area of
expertise.  Within the topic guidelines set by the particular faculty member,
the students choose a topic of their own interest and write a review paper.
This fall it's my turn and I have chosen the overall topic of "Issues in Plant
Defenses."   I see this as a way to have students take a somewhat botanical and
ecological perspective (since I am a plant ecologist), but should also allow the
student with a human health focus (which is the majority of our students, it
seems) to go off on a tangent of interest to them.

I'm looking for a few papers to have all the students read that will help to
define the topic for them and show them the different directions they can take.
I want to start off with a review article on plant defenses.  There's one in the
Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics that's fairly recent and should work (I
just don't have a copy of it yet to know for sure).    Then I want to find a
research paper showing the defensive properties of a chemical that humans ingest
--something that illustrates that a substance we take in for fun, medicine, etc.
is acting as an anti-herbivore defense in nature.    I haven't started  looking
yet.  Do any of you have any suggestions?    I'd also like to have something
with more of an environmental focus, such as on the possible effects of
genetically engineering plant crops to contain anti-herbivore compounds that
they never had before.   I've read newspaper accounts of the possible effect of
corn with the Bt (is that it?) gene on  butterflies, but have yet to find a
primary research reference on the topic.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks ahead of time for any help

Martha Phillips
Biology Dept.
The College of St. Catherine
St. Paul, MN

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