In the mid 1990's, several researchers originally affiliated at the Applied Biology Department of EBD started to ask themselves about the role of carotenoid pigments in avian communication, as these substances were very prevalent in colourful ornaments, and also seemed to be important physiological modulators. Lacking appropriate equipment at EBD, the first analyses were carried out in external laboratories.
A few years later, other researchers from the Evolutionary Ecology Department became interested in analysing natural variation in the chemical composition of different plant tissues, with an emphasis in secondary compounds and sugars. They were aimed at studying the influence of those variations on the interactions of plants with herbivores, pollinators and seed dispersers.
This emerging interest in chemical analyses, coming concurrently from two research Departments at EBD and requiring similar equipment, resulted in the creation of the Laboratory of Chemical Ecology (LEQ) in 2004.
The lab is currently specialised in liquid chromatographic analyses (HPLC). From a very modest beginning (running just an old-fashioned spectrophotometer shared with the Molecular Ecology Lab), we have grown to a slightly more respectable facility that provides access to a wider range of analytical tools to accomplish the research objectives of several projects and Research Lines at EBD. Nowadays, we analyse nectar sugars, plant coumarins, bird carotenoids, and also bird melanins, for which we have contributed to develop and patent -along with other CSIC researchers- a novel extraction and quantification method. This patent is, by the way, the first ever registered by an EDB scientist.
Head Scientists: Juan José Negro y Conchita Alonso
Head Technician: Isabel María García Jiménez
Technician: Rosario Quinter