Rachel Vannette

Rachel Vannette

Position Title
Assistant Professor

Entomology and Nematology


Vannette is an assistant professor in the Department of Entomology and Nematology. She focuses on understanding and predicting how microbial communities influence interactions between plants and insects. Vannette completed her Ph.D. in ecology and evolution at the University of Michigan. She joined the faculty at UC Davis in 2015 after completing a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University.

Research interests:

Ecology, mutualism, chemical ecology, plant-pollinator interactions, plant-microbe interactions, nectar chemistry, molecular ecology

Brief overview:

All plants are colonized by microorganisms that influence plant traits and interactions with other species, including insects that consume or pollinate plants. I am interested in the basic and applied aspects of microbial contributions to the interaction between plants and insects.  I also use these systems to answer basic ecological questions, such as what mechanisms influence plant biodiversity and trait evolution.

Much of the work in my lab focuses on how microorganisms affect plant defense against herbivores and plant attraction to pollinators. For example, we are interested in understanding the microbial drivers of soil health, which can influence plant attractiveness to herbivores and the plant’s ability to tolerate or defend against damage by herbivores. In addition, we are working to examine how microorganisms modify flower attractiveness to pollinators. This may have relevance in agricultural systems to improve plant and pollinator health.

Current projects:

  • Effects of nectar-inhabiting microbes on plant-pollinator interactions
  • Chemical and microbial ecology of nectar
  • Effects of soil biota on plant-herbivore interactions