Shelly Forster


  • Time Zone
    (not set)

  • Organization
    Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

  • Role
    Scientist Mentor: I will mentor teams of students online

  • Research Interests (300 words)
    I have worked on research projects on both plant evolution and plant defense. I studied the co-evolution of sub-alpine floral color and shape in response to pollinator visits. Basically, this project involved painting and re-shaping flowers and watching to see how these manipulations changed the community of insects that chose to visit the flowers. While studying plant defense I collected "smells" (volatile organic compounds) from tomato leaves and analyzed the makeup of defensive compounds in different tomato breeds. I'm currently interested in plant phenology and distribution, particularly in high altitude Rocky Mountain plant communities.

  • Profile Question 1
    What is the coolest thing you have discovered or learned about plants?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 1 here (300 words):
    Plants have co-evolved very closely with insects and have all sorts of wacky and really specific structures to attract pollinators. For instance, the bee orchid has evolved a pink flower that looks like it has a bee sitting on it. This flower looks like a gorgeous bee to males looking for a mate. The plant dupes male bees into visiting, thereby helping to spread its' pollen. Devious! There are great examples like this all over the plant world.

  • Profile Question 2
    What is tough about being a scientist?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 2 here (300 words):
    It's difficult for me to focus on just one or two specific scientific questions, as many career scientists need to do. While I love learning about plants, I'm also very interested in entomology, land conservation, roadkill ecology, and so many other fields. As a science educator, I'm always learning and teaching students about a whole host of different fields.

  • Profile Question 3
    What is your favorite plant? Why?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 3 here (300 words):
    I love Elephantella, which grows in Rocky Mountain marshes. Each pink flower looks like an elephant head with dark eyes, a trunk, and two flapping ears. When an insect lands on the flower, the stamen is released like a spring and slaps a dollop of pollen onto the visitor. It's so unusual!

  • Help represent the outreach efforts of your societies. Please click all those organizations you are a member of:
    (not set)

  • Availability
    I am NOT available, please temporarily remove me from the available mentor list

  • Capacity: How many teams at a time are you comfortable working with?

Recent Posts

Group 5 Shelly Forster
commented on a blog post

Interesting! Have you learned why different plant species might produce different amounts of oxygen? What kind of things might affect how much oxygen an individual plant produces? For instance, do you think plants with a bug infestation might…

Group 5 Shelly Forster
commented on a blog post

Thanks for explaining this new experiment so clearly. I'm curious about a few different things. First, you wrote "You need light or a source of energy for the plant to go through the photosynthesis cycle." Are there other sources…

Group 5 Shelly Forster

Hi team-

I'm sorry for not getting back to you sooner; I was on vacation in Maine for a week. I'm catching up now by reading about your experiment in the packet that I think you all used in class. I would love an update from you, too:…


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