Elizabeth Ordeman

Determining the Evolutionary Forces responsible for Toxin Resistance in Milkweed Butterflies

This project aims to determine whether or not bottom-up evolutionary forces such as the enhanced ability to feed on toxic plants are responsible for the evolution of toxin resistance in milkweed feeding butterflies. This hypothesis favoring bottom-up evolutionary forces is contrary to that favoring top-down evolutionary forces such as enhanced protection from predators through the sequestration of ingested toxins. To study this question, we are utilizing CRISPR-engineered Drosophila flies that contain three key amino acid substitutions in their sodium pump. These engineered mutations correspond to mutations found naturally in milkweed butterflies. We will use a suite of experiments to address this question, including sodium pump assays, HPLC analysis of toxins in the milkweed plants, and feeding experiments with diets containing milkweeds with differing levels of toxicity.

Message to Sponsor

Thank you very much for your support of the URAP summer program. This experience has allowed me to grow my research skills and also learn a lot about my personal career interests. The stipend that goes along with the URAP summer program was really instrumental in helping me afford to stay in Berkeley to do research over the summer, and it really was an incredible opportunity to extend my learning beyond the classroom and into the lab.
  • Major: Genetics & Plant Biology
  • Mentor: Noah Whiteman and Marianna Karageorgi, Integrative Biology