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Dr. Susan Whitehead

FACULTY AFFILIATE   |   Global Change Center

Biological Sciences

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(540) 231-2137  •


Dr. Whitehead studies the evolutionary ecology of interactions between plants and other organisms. Much of her work focuses specifically on plant secondary chemistry and its fundamental role in shaping complex interaction webs among plants, herbivores, pathogens, microbial partners, pollinators, and seed dispersers. Her research is grounded in field-based studies that span tropical and temperate forests as well as agricultural systems. She complements field work with diverse approaches including chemical analysis of plant secondary metabolites, greenhouse experiments, laboratory bioassays, behavioral experiments with animals, and a diversity of quantitative methods. In the context of global change, Dr. Whitehead is interested in how multiple anthropogenic factors, including climate change, species invasions, land-use change, and agronomic practices, are altering plant traits and species interactions.

Dr. Whitehead is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. Previously, she completed a B.A. in Biology at Oberlin College, a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and post-doctoral studies in Applied Chemical Ecology at Cornell University. At Virginia Tech, she teaches undergraduate lecture courses in Ecology and a Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CURE) course in Field Ecology.  She serves as an associate editor for Oecologia and as a member of the board of directors for SEEDS, a non-profit environmental education organization in Blacksburg, VA.