Ph. D. Candidate Receives First Place for Research on Cotton Plants during Beltwide Cotton Conference
Diana Castillo Lopez (right) stands with Melissa Willrich Siebert (left) after the awards presentation during the Beltwide Cotton Conference in San Antonio.
SAN ANTONIO – Ph.D. candidate Diana Castillo Lopez received high honors at the Beltwide Cotton Conference Award earlier in January for her research with cotton endophytes.
Lopez, who is co-advised by Dr. Greg Sword and Dr. Keyan Zhu-Salzman, received first place in the Competition for Best Ph.D. presentation at the conference held in San Antonio during the second week in January.
Lopez received the award in the Insect Research and Management-plant interactions category for her presentation titled “Negative Effects of Fungal Endophytes on Cotton Aphid Reproduction.”
Her presentation focused on the interactions between fungal endophytes in cotton and the possible negative effects they may have on cotton aphids and other insects’ reproduction. Endophytes are living organisms, such as bacteria or fungi that lives inside the plant for part of its life without causing apparent disease.
The primary part of her research is evaluating and isolating the fungal endophytes that help cotton plants keep insects, such as aphids, from infesting the plant, she said.
The ultimate goal of her project is to study these endophytes and the mechanism of interaction between the endophytes and the insects affecting cotton plants, and to understand the ecological role they play in interacting with the cotton plants.
Sword was very proud of Lopez and said that her project may have potential in the future because what started as alaboratory and greenhouse discovery was also seen under field conditions.
“Diana's laboratory work has provided some of the first examples of anti-insect effects of fungal endophytes in cotton using ecologically realistic assays in which the entire plant was left intact for the duration of the experiment,” he said. “Even more important is that by conducting parallel studies in both the lab and field, she has demonstrated that the negative effects of fungal endophytes on insect herbivores is not just a nifty lab phenomenon, but that they can also occur in the field.”