SCB-TO Member Spotlight: Ken Thompson
I am a M.Sc. student at the University of Toronto Mississauga. I am an evolutionary biologist currently studying the effects of urbanization on driving evolution in plant populations. All plants have ways to defend themselves against damage from herbivores, and the goal of my M.Sc. research is to understand how urbanization can influence the evolution of these defenses by altering herbivore communities. Defenses are costly for plants to produce, and if there are no herbivores, then there is no reason for plants to spend their limited resources making defenses! Have you ever seen a grasshopper in downtown Toronto? I haven’t, and I hypothesize that the absence of many dominant herbivores in cities should cause plants to evolve lower levels of defense in cities than in rural areas. Preliminary data collected last summer lends strong support to this hypothesis, and I am now preparing to conduct a large experiment this summer to further test these ideas.
For this project, I need support from residents of Toronto. I am looking for homeowners / renters who can lend 1.5 square meters (approx. 16 square feet) of lawn space with at least partial sun upon which I can set up an experimental population of potted plants from June through August. If you are interested in volunteering for this project, please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be in touch with more specific information.