Dr. Nora Villamil Buenrostro

I am an evolutionary ecologist fascinated by the ways in which plant reproductive systems are shaped by their friends (mutualists) and foes (antagonists). At UNIL, I am studying the evolution of plant sexual systems from separate (dioecy) to joint (hermaphroditism) sexes. Currently I am trying to understand what maintains sexes separated in plants (dioecy). A key question concerns the extent to which dioecy is maintained by sexual specialisation as opposed to avoidance of inbreeding depression. 


I am also interested in understanding the correlated evolution of plant defensive and reproductive strategies. In particular, the consequences that herbivores and plant volatile defences (jasmonate) have on plant sexual expression in a recently domesticated lineage generated through experimental evolution. I am also interested in how flower predators affect floral evolution and recently collaborated to produce the first global estimate of flower predation levels (florivory).


During my PhD at the University of Edinburgh I worked on tri-trophic systems involving plants, defensive ants, herbivores and pollinators, where I investigated ant-pollinator conflicttrade-offs in plant investment to rewards for ants or pollinators, and how defensive mutualists shap plant mating systems. Prior to that, at the Institute of Ecology, UNAM (Mexico), I studied how plant age (ontogeny) affects plant-animal interactions, in particular how herbivory and plant chemical, physical and biotic defences change as plants age. I also studied underwater pollination in marine seagrasses and was fascinated to find that zooplankton are ‘the bees of the sea’. 


You can find more about these projects in the publications tab.

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