Justin Baldwin’s research expanding on his Division III project was recently featured on the cover of esteemed ecology journal Oecologia
Justin Baldwin is studying fruit secondary compounds in pepper plants, and their role in plants’ seed dispersal. These chemicals are the same ones that cause black pepper to taste spicy and prevent insect predators and pathogens from feeding on the plants. And he has now achieved the rare feat of publishing his undergraduate research, as a cover story no less, in the peer-reviewed journal Oecologia.
Baldwin's studies show that the fruit secondary compounds were crucial in helping seeds move through bats’ digestive systems. A shorter stay in the bat’s system results in a quicker dispersal of the seeds, via defecation by the bat, and changes the seeds’ chances of survival. This suggests that spiciness in fruits may not have evolved for the sole purpose of defending plants from their enemies, as it simultaneously influences the seed dispersal process.
Here's the citation for his published research:
Baldwin, J.W., Whitehead, S.R. 2015. "Fruit Secondary Compounds Mediate the Retention Time of Seeds in the Guts of Neotropical Fruit Bats." Oecologia 177(2):453-66. Cover Story.
Baldwin says using primary research articles at Hampshire, as opposed to textbooks, had a lasting effect on him. “We were exposed to primary research articles from the first day of classes on,” he says. “I remember one assignment where we had to read through a bunch of articles that we had no preparation for, and highlight every word we didn’t understand, and look it up.”
“That exercise opened up a whole new world to me, and gave me the feeling that you can sit down and put it all together, and make sense of it on your own.”
Baldwin has plans to pursue an advanced degree, combining biology, statistics, and data analysis.