Laura Sophie Hildesheim

Doctoral Student


I have a background in plant evolutionary ecology, and I am especially interested in plant-insect interactions and the evolution of floral traits. Flowers are complex phenotypes and allow us to study multivariate phenotypic evolution following environmental change, like for example the response to variation in the pollination environment.

For my PhD I will study pollinator-driven evolution of floral traits with a focus on floral scent. Floral scent is a complex floral trait and can serve as a specialized pollinator reward. I use the genus Dalechampia (Euphorbiaceae) which exhibits a diversity of specialized pollinator reward systems (fragrance, resin, and pollen). I will study how the pollinator shifts and the evolution of fragrance rewards occurred in this genus. I will be combining greenhouse studies, lab, and fieldwork.

First, I assess patterns of floral scent composition in Dalechampia in a greenhouse common garden and map floral chemistry onto a phylogeny of the genus. I quantify among-species as well as within-species variation in floral scent composition in species with specialized reward systems, including resin rewards and fragrance rewards. Second, I study patterns of covariation between floral scent and other floral traits to get a more holistic view of the flowers. Finally, I study variation in scent emission and composition among species and populations and establish a link with spatial and temporal variation in the pollination environment using field data on pollinator activity and community composition.