Chemical ecology examines the nature of chemical interactions between living organisms and their environment. Thus, chemical ecology is the study of connections and the molecules that foster them. The promise of the field lies in its ability to further our mechanistic understanding of basic interactions and allow us to more effectively manipulate managed/applied (eco-)systems.

Since the term ‘chemical ecology’ was first coined 50 years ago, the field has evolved significantly. After the identification of the first animal pheromone and recognition of plant secondary chemistry’s importance to plant-herbivore interactions in the 1950’s, the methodologies and techniques, the objects of study, and our views of chemical communication saw significant development leading to a ‘chemical cultural revolution.’ As a result, the notion that chemicals play a role in the interactions between organisms is now an a priori expectation. Penn State’s Center for Chemical Ecology is focused on harnessing these chemical interactions for solving problems.

The goal of the Center is to not only study connections, but to develop them across our university. As an intrinsically interdisciplinary field, bridges between academic areas will only foster new discoveries, tools and solutions for our world. We plan to develop core ‘B.A.S.E.’ areas:

Behavior, Pheromones, and Sensory Biology

Agroecology and Plant Interactions

Sensors and Artificial Intelligence

Ecophysiology, Exposome, and Exposomics

Penn State’s Chemical Ecology ‘2.0’ will leverage merging approaches including ‘the -omics’, behavior, phylogenetic ecology, sensory biology, machine learning, and sensor development as means to deal with emerging challenges such as sustainable agriculture, climate change, and public health to guide its growth.

If you would like to know more, or are interested in joining the center, contact Jared Ali.