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Plants produce a wide variety of so-called “secondary compounds” which they use for many different functions, including deterring their herbivores or attracting their pollinators. Many of these compounds are familiar to us since we have co-opted them for our own purposes, such as fragrances and flavors (essential oils) and medicines and stimulants (aspirin and caffeine). While we associate specific plants with certain compounds, in natural populations the chemistry of some plant species can be quite variable. I am interested in this variation and how secondary compound-mediated interactions between plants and other organisms can change over a plant’s range. In this talk I will discuss where the fields of chemical ecology and biogeography meet and use some of my work to illustrate the ecological and evolutionary implications of plant chemical variation over the landscape.
Ken Keefover-Ring was born and lived in Colorado Springs, CO until moving to Fort Collins, CO to attend Colorado State University (CSU) for a bachelor’s of science (BS) degree in biology and biochemistry. After CSU, Ken moved to Phoenix, AZ and started working as a chemist for an aerospace company developing plastics for commercial aircraft interiors. During this time he also enrolled at Arizona State University and after two years received a BS in chemistry. For the next several years Ken continued working in industry in the Phoenix area and then in the Denver-Boulder area as an analytical chemist in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. While working at a biotech firm, Ken started a master’s of arts degree at the University of Colorado at Boulder in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB). After the masters Ken left industry to pursue a PhD full-time, also in EEB at CU-Boulder. After graduation Ken accepted a post-doctoral research position at UW-Madison, followed by another post-doc in Umeå, Sweden, and then two years of 50:50 between Madison and Umeå. At the beginning of 2016 Ken started as a professor in the departments of Geography and Botany at UW-Madison, where he studies biogeography and chemical ecology.
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