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Pioneer of ecological genetics

September 06, 2013

At the annual institute symposium on September 12, 2013, the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, will celebrate the election of Prof. Ian T. Baldwin to both the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America and the German Leopoldina. Election to these scientific elite societies honors his distinguished achievements in plant ecology by integrating whole organismic-expertise into the study of gene function. In his Department of Molecular Ecology, Ian Baldwin is training a new generation of biologists who are able to utilize field studies in order to understand gene functions, particularly those that allow plants to survive in the rough and tumble of the real world.

The National Academy of Sciences of the USA was founded 1863 under President Abraham Lincoln as an honorary society of leading scientists and is recognized as one of the most renowned research associations worldwide. The German Leopoldina, which is officially the National Academy of Sciences since 2008, was founded in 1652 by four physicians and is located in Halle/Saale.

Ian Baldwin is the founding director of the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, which was established in 1996 by the senate of the Max Planck Society. He received numerous awards, including the coveted Advanced Researchers' Grant of the European Research Council in 2011. The scientific mission of the institute is to examine the role, diversity and characteristics of chemical signals that mediate interactions between organisms and their environment. The primary research focus is on the study of interactions between plants and insect herbivores. Ian Baldwin and his coworkers in the Department of Molecular Ecology regularly use a nature preserve in Utah, USA, to perform field experiments. They study a wild tobacco species in the plant's native environment to understand how plants survive under real world conditions. They also use genetically modified plants for their experiments. By melding the tools of modern analytical chemistry and molecular biology with those of old-fashioned field work, they have uncovered many molecular mechanisms by which plants survive adverse environmental conditions and ensure their survival to produce grandchildren. This includes the discovery of a sophisticated suite of herbivore resistance traits, traits that could form the basis for modern and environmentally friendly agricultural practices. [AO/JWK]

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Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology
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