Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

DeEtta Mills

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee chair

Second Advisor's Name

Kenneth G. Furton

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Third Advisor's Name

Jeffrey Wells

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Heather Bracken-Grissom

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Eric Von-Wettberg

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member


Laurel wilt disease, metabolomics, plant disease, canine olfaction

Date of Defense



Laurel wilt disease is a vascular wilt affecting the xylem and water conductivity in trees belonging to the family Lauraceae. The disease was introduced by an invasive species of ambrosia beetle, Xyleborus glabratus. The beetle, together with its newly described fungal symbiont Raffaelea lauricola (pathogenic to host trees), has lead to the devastation and destruction of over 300 million wild redbay trees in southeastern forests. Ambrosia beetles make up a very unique clade of beetle and share a co-evolved obligatory mutualistic relationship with their partner fungi. Rather than consuming host tree material, the beetles excavate galleries or canals within them. These galleries serve two purposes: reproduction and fungal gardening. The beetles house fungal spores within specialized sacs, mycangia, and essentially inoculate host trees with the pathogenic agent. They actively grow and cultivate gardens of the fungus in galleries to serve as their sole food source. Once the fungus reaches the xylem vessels of the host tree, it thrives and leads to the blockage of water flow, both because of fungal accumulation and to the host response of secreting gels, gums and tyloses to occlude vessels in an attempt to quarantine the fungus.

This disease spreads rapidly, and as a result, once symptoms become visible to the naked eye, it is already too late to save the tree, and it has likely already spread to adjacent ones. The present study presents the first documented study involving the early detection of disease from deep within a tree through the use of scent-discriminating canines. In addition, the present study has lead to the development of a novel sample collection device enabling the non-destructive sampling of beetle galleries. Finally, a metabolomics approach revealed key biochemical pathway modifications in the disease state, as well as potential clues to disease development.





Rights Statement

Rights Statement

In Copyright. URI:
This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).