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Faculty Profile

Heidi AppelHeidi Appel

Professor and Dean of Honors College
Department of Biology and Biochemistry
Research Division:
Ecology and Evolution (Primary)

Office: Honors College, M.D. Anderson Library, 212
Contact: happel@uh.edu - 713-743-2356

Education: Ph.D. and M.S., University of Michigan

Google Scholar Profile

As a chemical ecologist interested in plant-insect interactions, I’ve focused on how plants defend themselves against insect pests. Plants mostly respond chemically by producing distasteful or toxic chemicals, which are important to humans as flavors, aromas, preservatives, and/or medicines. My work, much of it in collaboration with Jack Schultz, has used approaches ranging from gene expression to phytochemistry to insect response to understand how plants tell pests apart and defend appropriately. More recently, I’ve been studying plant sensory ecology, especially acoustic ecology, with collaborator Rex Cocroft at the University of Missouri. We study how plants detect and respond selectively to vibrations in their environment, including the feeding vibrations of insect pests.

Figure: Feeding by caterpillars (Pieris rapae) cause small vibrations in the leaves of Arabidopsis plants that are measured with a cold laser. The leaf vibrations are then recreated in the absence of the caterpillar to establish that plants can sense vibrations of ecological importance to them and respond in ecologically relevant ways, in this case with increases in their chemical defenses.

Honors & Awards

American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow