Keenan Duggal ’23


Molecular Biology

Project Title

Effects of Climate Change on Plant-Pathogen Evolution and Epidemiology

Presentation Link

View Keenan's Presentation

Certificate(s): Environmental Studies

My project focused on the epidemiological dynamics of the flowering plant Lewis flax (Linum lewisii) and its fungal pathogen flax rust (Melampsora lini). I worked to extrapolate how climate change is going to broadly change the transmission dynamics and evolutionary strategies of infectious diseases in plants, which has significant implications for agricultural production and global food security. My responsibilities were to: contribute to long-term epidemiological data sets through fieldwork and data collection; design and execute inoculation experiments to help elucidate flax resistance dynamics; and carry out elevation transect surveys and statistical analyses on the resulting data to determine the correlation between flax-rust infection and spatial data information, such as topography, landcover and radiation levels. During this internship, I experienced what field research entails, and I learned many field-specific research techniques in addition to data analysis skills. Moreover, I gained valuable experience in designing my own experiments and leading my own project. I am interested in further exploring the intersections between the environment and human health.

* This internship is connected to the HMEI Water and the Environment Challenge project, “Beyond the Drought Paradigm: Does Hydrology Drive Pathogen Impact on Plant Health?”

Internship Year


Project Category

Food Systems, Water And Human Health


The Metcalf Lab, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University- Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, Gothic, Colorado


C. Jessica E. Metcalf, Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Public Affairs; Ian Miller, Ph.D. candidate, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology