Annette Golonka's Research Interests

My research interests focus around microbial ecology, diversity, and evolution, as well as plant ecology, spanning disciplines. I am also very interested in science education and laboratory development. I am interested in population and community dynamics of plants, the interaction of microbes with plants and pollinators, yeast evolution and ecology, the evolution of gender in plants, and pollination biology. For more information, please see my Curriculum vitae for my previous research experiences.

My dissertation work at Duke University examined the relationship between plants, pollinators, and Nectar-Inhabiting Microorganisms (NIMs), as well as the importance of these floral microorganisms for host species and pollinators. Nectar is one of the most common floral rewards a plant produces to attract pollinators and is utilized by pollinators as an energy source. It is a nutrient rich habitat with sugars, amino acids, protein, lipids, essential oils, polysaccharides, antioxidants, alkaloids, and vitamins (Baker and Baker, 1983; Dafni, 1992) and as such is relatively expensive to produce. Nectar is not only an attractant and food resource for pollinators, it is also a potential habitat for microorganisms (reviewed in Phaff et al, 1978). Nectar-inhabiting microorganisms include bacteria, filamentous fungi, true yeasts, and fungi with a yeast-like budding stage such as smuts.

Nectar-inhabiting yeast are ubiquitous and occur in several different plant families, predominantly hermaphroditic plant genera. These microbes have been found not only in plant nectar, but also in the stomachs of pollinators (Gilliam et al., 1977; Sandhu and Waraich, 1985), so these microorganisms may be affecting not only plants, but their pollinators as well. Other than a handful of studies on hermaphroditic plant species, there has been little assessment of the general importance of these floral microorganisms on host species and pollinators or assessment of how these microorganisms interact with pollinators or plants.

My thesis examined the interactions of NIMs with the plant species Silene latifolia and its pollinators. Using innovative techniques, I focused on three aspects of this complex association: 1) yeast species diversity in nectar of S. latifolia and co-flowering plant species, 2) differential growth rates of nectar-inhabiting yeast in male, female, and pseudonectar, and 3) direct and indirect effects of nectar-inhabiting yeast on maternal fitness of S. latifolia.

You may email me at my current Duke address for a list of literature references or for a pdf of my thesis: Future research will most likely focus on this system as well, since very few researchers are studying this area and there is much to learn.

System (more information)

The Plant Host:   The sexually dimorphic plant species Silene latifolia (= Silene alba , Caryophyllaceae)

The Yeast Species:   The yeast and yeast-like fungi collected from 8 populations of S. latifolia near Mountain Lake Biological Station in Giles County, Virginia.   Species are identified using approximately a 1.2 kb section of nrDNA.   Specifically, the internal transcribed spacer (ITS1), 5.8S, ITS2, and the 5' end of the large subunit (including the variable D1 and D2 region) were sequenced. The D1 and D2 region of the large subunit were "blasted" in GenBank to find closely related species and to identify the species (to genus level if species level is not possible), following Kurtzman and Robnett, (1997).

Other Interests

My other interests include sexual dimorphism in plants, community ecology, and microbial ecology.   I am always interested in learning new research techniques and have experience in a wide range of techniques including molecular systematics, allozymes, microbiology, and computer modeling.

Recent Publications

  • Golonka, A. M., A. K. Sakai, and S.G. Weller.  2005.   Wind pollination, sexual dimorphism, nd change sin floral traits of Schiedea (Caryophyllaceae).   American Journal of Botany.   92: 1492-1502.
  • Weller, S.G., A.K. Sakai, A.E. Rankin, A. Golonka, B. Kutcher, and K.E. Ashby.   1998.   Dioecy and the evolution of pollination systems in Schiedea and Alsinidendron (Caryophyllaceae: Alsinoideae) in the Hawaiian Islands.   American Journal of Botany.   85:1377-1388.
  • Golonka, A.M.   1996.   Sexual Dimorphism in Schiedea (Caryophyllaceae).   Journal of Undergraduate Research in the Biological Sciences.   University of California, Irvine.   26:160-166.

Manuscripts in Preparation

  • Golonka, A. M. and R. Vilgalys.    The diversity of nectar-inhabiting yeasts in Silene latifolia and co-flowering plant species.
  • Golonka, A.M.   Differential growth rate of nectar-inhabiting microorganisms in male versus female nectar of Silene latifolia.
  • Golonka, A.M. and J. Antonovics.   The effect of nectar-inhabiting yeast on maternal fitness of Silene latifolia plants.

Teaching Materials

  • Golonka, A. M. and R. Vilgalys.   Fall 2004 through Spring 2006 Semester Issue.   Laboratory Exercises for Bio 103 General Microbiology.   Duke University, Department of Biology, Durham, NC.

Abbreviated NIMs Reference List

  • Baker, H. G. and I. Baker. 1983. Floral nectar sugar constituents in relation to pollinator type. In: C. E. Jones and R. J. Little (eds). Handbook of Experimental Pollination Biology. Scientific and Academic Editions, New York.
  • Dafni, A. 1992. Pollination Ecology: a practical approach. Oxford Press, New York.
  • Eisikowitch, D., P. G. Kevan, and M. A. Lachance. 1990. The nectar-inhabiting yeasts and their effects on pollen germination in common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca L. Israel Journal of Botany. 39: 217-225.
  • Gilliam, M., H. L. Morton, D. B. Prest, R. D. Martin, and L. J. Wickerham. 1977. The mycoflora of adult worker honeybees, Apis mellifera: effects of 2,4,5-T and caging bee colonies. Journal of Invertebrate Pathology. 30: 50-54.
  • Lachance, M. A., W. T. Starmer, C. A. Rosa, J. M. Bowles, J. S. F. Barker, and D. H. Janzen. 2001. Biogeography of the yeasts of ephemeral flowers and their insects. FEMS Yeast Research. 1: 1-8.
  • Lund, A. 1954. Studies on the Ecology of Yeasts. Trans. Niels Haislund. Tubory Breweries, Copenhagen.
  • Phaff, H. J., M. W. Mills, and E. M. Mrak. 1978. The Life of Yeasts, 2nd ed. Harvard University Press, Cambridge.
  • Sandhu, D. K., and M. K. Waraich. 1985. Yeasts associated with pollinating bees and flower nectar. Microbial Ecology. 11: 51-58.

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This page last updated May 17, 2006.

© 2000-2005 Annette M. Golonka Praay.
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