The Garden Club of America has awarded Lekeah Durden, a doctoral student in the Indiana University Department of Biology, with its 2019 Anne S. Chatham Fellowship for Medicinal Botany. The award will fund Durden's research project "Development of laboratory-based bioassays to detect fungal symbiosis in Ipomoea tricolor." Ipomoea tricolor, an ornamental morning glory, is a species of flowering plant in the family Convolvulaceae.
Durden, a member of Distinguished Professor Emeritus Keith Clay's lab, investigates host-microbe interactions in plants. She uses the morning glory family (Convolvulaceae) to study the co-evolution of the flowering plant and its fungal partner. This plant-fungal interaction is a unique system because it maintains a hereditary symbiosis that can't be detected with the naked-eye. Her current work has linked the plant-endosymbiotic association in deterring natural enemies. Broader implications of Lekeah’s research relates to defensive mutualisms that can inform ways to protect crops from plant pests and decrease the need for environmental pollutants like synthetic chemical pesticides.
Durden will be presenting part of her project at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America this week in Louisville, Kentucky.
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