Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your academic background?
Hello, my name is Joanah! I am originally from Gweru, Zimbabwe. I graduated from the Midlands State University (Zimbabwe) with a bachelor’s degree in Agronomy in 2009. I was employed by the same university as an assistant lecturer and then later became a full-time lecturer until 2019. I have enjoyed the interaction with my students and I always looked forward to my classroom experience.
During that period, I was able to take a break from my teaching job and pursue postgraduate studies in the Netherlands in 2011-2012. I completed a Master of Sciences degree in Plant sciences, specialising in plant breeding and genetic resources, with Wageningen University. It is during that time that I was introduced to the exciting field of plant communication and it has really been an honour to be offered an opportunity to pursue my PhD studies in this field with the University of Adelaide.
Could you introduce us to your project and what it involves?
Project title: Inter-vine signalling via plant volatiles
In this project, we will test the hypothesis that during stress or key phenological events, stressed vines (source vines) emit volatile signals that induce non-stressed vines (receiver vines) to respond in kind.
The aim of the study is to investigate inter-vine signalling in grapevines via plant volatile organic compounds under water stress conditions. Here we will study the priming of plant defense responses in receiver vines as mediated by the volatile cues from source vines, as a mechanism of plant-to-plant communication in grapevines. Growers may be able to use various source vines, or indeed other plants, in order to manipulate outcomes in nearby vines.
What can you see yourself doing in the future?
Once I complete my PhD, you will probably find me in a classroom somewhere- teaching and mentoring undergraduate and postgraduate students once again! Teaching really is my passion but I do know that in order to remain relevant to my students and the education sector at large, I need to continue empowering myself with up-to-date knowledge and skills through continued research and post-doctoral studies. I intend to explore plant signalling studies as there is still a lot that is yet to be unravelled.