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Enter the world of carnivorous plants

A carnivorous plant about to have lunch Ulrike Bauer

Dr Ulrike Bauer in the field Ulrike Bauer

Press release issued: 3 November 2017

The fascinating world of carnivorous plants will be revealed later this month at the University of Bristol Botanic Garden Friends’ lecture.

Dr Ulrike Bauer, Royal Society University Research Fellow, from the University of Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences, will introduce the audience to the tricks and strategies used by these fascinating plants to lure and capture insects and other food.

The Botanic Garden Friends’ lecture will take place at 7.30pm on Thursday, November 16 at the Frank Theatre, Wills Physics Laboratory, Tyndall Avenue.

Come and hear how carnivorous pitcher plants trap, kill and digest insects so they can survive in extremely nutrient­ poor habitats.

Dr Bauer will explain how tropical Asian Nepenthes pitcher plants display a stunning diversity of trap designs and mechanisms, while American Heliamphora pitcher plants convergently evolved traps that rely on the same physical principles.

Nepenthes nectar-drinking visitors include brown-throated and olive-backed sunbirds along with the lesser tree shrew.

Much of Dr Bauer’s research has taken place in the exotic, tropical environment of Brunei, Northern Borneo, where she enjoys the challenge of combining experimental ecology with accurate biomechanical measurements in a tropical field environment.

She uses carnivorous plants as a model to investigate mechanical defence strategies of plants, a severely under-researched area with important implications for diverse fields ranging from agriculture to biomimetic engineering.

In addition, she studies how mechanical factors (such as surface and material properties of plants) influence the interaction between insects and plants, with a particular interest in the trapping mechanisms of carnivorous plants.

Dr Bauer worked on the biomechanics, ecology and evolution of pitcher plants since 2004 when she was still an undergraduate at the University of Würzburg, Germany.

Before moving to Bristol with a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship in 2014, she spent seven years in Cambridge, first as a PhD student, and later as a Junior Research Fellow.

Admission is free to Friends (on production of membership card) and university students. Visitors are most welcome and will be asked for a donation (suggested £5).No booking is required. 

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