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New faculty profile: Amy Trowbridge specializes in forest-insect interactions

Amy Trowbridge. Photo by Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez/Montana State University.

Amy Trowbridge joined the Department of Entomology as an assistant professor in August 2019.

What is your hometown? Where did you grow up?
Aurora, Illinois.

What is your educational/professional background?
I received a B.S. in Integrative Biology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2005, and then a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2012.

What was your previous position?
Assistant professor at Montana State University.

How did you get into your field of research?
Working as an undergraduate research assistant at the University of Illinois on questions pertaining to successional forests.

What is the main goal of your current research program?
My research is focused on understanding how climate variability alters a tree’s ability to chemically defend itself against biotic agents, namely insects. By better understanding the stress-induced physiological mechanisms driving these responses, we hope to improve our ability to predict when and where insect outbreaks occur.

What attracted you to UW-Madison?
UW has an incredible legacy when it comes to pioneering research in the area of plant-insect interactions and I wanted to contribute to and be a part of that. The potential to collaborate with such high caliber scientists across campus was also appealing especially considering the interdisciplinary nature of my research.

What was your first visit to campus like?
I was really struck by how beautiful the campus was and loved sitting on the terrace talking science while looking out at Lake Mendota.

What’s one thing you hope students who take a class with you will come away with?
I hope they come away with a sense of wonder and passion to learn more about all of the amazing interactions that maintain our forest ecosystems.

Do you share your expertise and experiences with the public through social media? If so, which channels do you use?
Yes, I use twitter (@amy_trowbridge) to tune into the latest research, find new and interesting papers, exchange fun research ideas, and to share our findings with others.

Do you feel your work relates in any way to the Wisconsin Idea? If so, please describe how.
Absolutely. Research in my lab is focused on improving our understanding of how tree stress physiology impacts insects, with an emphasis on eruptive species. Wisconsin forests are no stranger to insect outbreaks and are vulnerable to invasives as well, and I hope that research in my lab will provide insights that are useful for managers working to maintain healthy forests across the state.

What’s something interesting about your area of expertise you can share that will make us sound smarter at parties?
I think a lot about how plants respond to drought stress, and interestingly, 99% of the water taken up by plants is lost to the atmosphere through a plant’s stomata even when they’re not “stressed”. Talk about living on the edge!

What are you hobbies/other interests?
Spending time with family, having dinner parties with friends, baking, and hiking.