Professor Jane TaylorProfessor of Plant Science
Jane is a plant biologist with a particular interest in cell signalling. Cell signalling is the mechanism by which plants translate the information they gain from the environment, and turn it into a change in cellular processes and gene expression, so that they can positively adapt to their environment. In an era of climate change and extreme weather events it has never been more important to understand how plants respond to and cope with such events if we are to secure plant and crop production to feed an ever-growing global population. Jane is particularly interested in how plants protect themselves against pests and diseases and how we can harness the knowledge of natural plant defence systems to develop novel ways to protect crop plants.
With a career spanning nearly three decades Jane has a diverse publication record that charts her changing scientific interests over that time frame. Subjects covered include: abscission, the process by which plants shed organs; cell signalling processes that underpin stomatal guard cell function; and more lately the role of the signalling compound, Jasmonic Acid, in the resistance by plants to pest attack.
Jane has received funding for her research from a range of funding bodies including:
- Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
- Biological and Biotechnological Science Research Council (BBSRC)
- Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
- Research Councils UK (RCUK)
Jane’s is part of the Plant and Crop Science Research Group at the Lancaster Environment Centre. Her current research projects are focussed in two areas:
- How plant produced volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) change in response to biotic and abiotic environmental stimuli and how these VOCs influence plant pest and predator behaviour (BBSRC-funded studentship)
- A University wide RCUK-funded project that aims to develop a School-University Partnership (SUP) with schools in Cumbria to enthuse the next generation of researchers
Jane delivers teaching both for the Lancaster Environment Centre and for the Division of Biomedical and Life Sciences, in the Faculty of Health and Medicine at Lancaster. This includes lectures, workshops and practical teaching on:
- First year Biological Sciences and Ecology modules covering Evolution, Biotechnology, and Hormones and Development
- Masters teaching on Crop Protection as part of the degree in Sustainable Agriculture
Jane has contributed to a Massive Open Online Course in Food Security, and is the Co-Director of an online professional development programme, co-designed and supported by Waitrose, entitled 'Food Challenges for the 21st Century'.
Jane is currently a member of the
- New Phytologist Board of Advisors
- Education Committee of the Linnean Society
- Society for Experimental Biology
At Lancaster Jane is a member of University Council and within the Lancaster Environment Centre (LEC) she is Associate Director for Undergraduate Strategy and Admissions and Deputy Director.
Research is focused in three areas:
A. Priming of plant defence
Jasmonic acid is a signalling compound that increases in plants in response to herbivore attack. My lab has shown that applying jasmonic acid to seeds can ‘prime’ the plants that subsequently grow and develop, enabling them to respond more effectively to biotic attack. Our current focus is to try to understand this priming process at the molecular level, using an array of molecular and biochemical techniques.
B. Biogenic volatile organic chemicals (BVOCS) as signals of biotic stress
(i) BVOC profiles from primed plants
BVOC profiles are specific to different plant species, and change in response to pest attack. My lab is investigating if primed plants have a different volatile signature that influences plant-herbivore interactions, either between plants and pests, or plants and beneficial insect species.
(ii) BVOC profiles as markers of pest attack
I am interested in determining the feasibility of using BVOC profiles to identify early onset pathogen and herbivore attack, ultimately with a view to developing both instruments and techniques that can be deployed in the field/glasshouse environment.
(ii) BVOC profile perturbation in response to environmental change
BVOCs are released by plants as part of an indirect defence response against pest attack. Current work is determining if changes in the environment e.g. increasing ozone concentrations alter the chemical composition of the BVOC profile which in turn alters plants’ capacity to mount an effective defence response.
C. School-University Partnerships
Through RCUK funding I am exploring how we can engage and train early career researchers to describe their research, and the conditions and factors which deliver sustainable, effective School-University research partnerships.
PhD Supervision Interests
a. Priming of plant defence b. The role of volatile organic chemicals in plant defence c. Novel methods for the early detection of plant biotic attack
Maternal priming of seeds for enhanced pest and disease resistance
01/10/2018 → 30/09/2022
Novel approaches for mitigating the impacts of Japanese knotweed
01/10/2017 → 30/09/2020
Priming of Indirect Defence in Plants
17/06/2013 → 16/03/2014
RCUK-SUP: Inspiring the Next Generation of Researchers
01/01/2013 → 31/12/2016
CASE: On line detection and diagnosis of plant damage and stress by herbivores and pathogens
01/10/2011 → …
Linnean Society Education Committee (External organisation)
Membership of committee
Visiting an external academic institution
SEB Annual Main Meeting
Participation in conference
Elected Fellow of the Society of Biology
Election to learned society
University of Lancaster Commercialisation Prize
Prize (including medals and awards)
- Improving global stewardship
- Innovation for a better environment
- Plant and Crop Science