Monica Gagliano is an Italian scientist and Research Professor in Evolutionary Ecology at the Biological Intelligence Lab at Southern Cross University, south of the Gold Coast in Australia. Throughout Rooted, she serves as a role model to Emery because of her studies in plant behavior and cognition. Gagliano has pioneered the field of plant bioacoustics, an observation and research method that Emery replicates through her own experiments. Plant bioacoustics describes the phenomenon of how plants generate and utilize sound waves. Through her observations of plant bioacoustics, Monica’s goal is to capture the wide range of signals emitted by plants, from infrasound, the low end of the audio spectrum, to ultrasonic, hoping to identify the significance of this range for plant communication.
Gagliano’s environmental interest has led her to dedicate her research to studying plant behavior, including germination rate and growth influenced by sound in a plant’s environment. In the field of plant cognition, Monica strives to test the plant’s learning and perceptive processes as well as their memory capacity and, therefore, consciousness. Through her research, Monica Gagliano has found that plants produce sound waves to send out into their environment and listen to and respond to external sounds. Plants have the ability to identify predators and pollinators and locate water sources by perceiving sound. Now, plants cannot react to these stimuli the same way animals or insects would but instead can prepare themselves in a more Pavlovian way for resources or danger. This is to say that Gagliano believes plants use sound to condition themselves to their environment.
Much like Emery Harris, Monica’s research aims to expand humans’ understanding of plants and nature as a whole. Gagliano’s research has led her to hypothesize that plants and animals use sound to react and respond to the world around them. The result of some of these sounds gets passed through the generations to become instinct and facilitate species adaptation.
Monica believes that it is the non-conventional ways of thinking about nature that will be most beneficial as we continue to see further global ecological devastation. Gagliano calls her proposal for this non-conventional way of thinking; ‘Resonant Earth: Planetary Regeneration Through Sonic Midwifery.’ She proposes that by shifting our viewpoint from continuously forcing change upon the plant to listening to the sounds that benefit nature and provide aid, humans can become stewards in a way that ensures the survival of all life, not just our own. In her own words, she hopes to “reconnect the spirit of our humanity with a sense of reverence and a sense of reciprocity to all life.”
Similarly to our protagonist Emery, Monica has spent part of her career researching the Mimosa Pudica, or Shameplant, as its behavior is easily studied due to its leaves’ immediate, reactive nature. This play discusses themes of radical environmentalism and empathy for nature. Through Emery’s experiments, influenced by Monica Gagliano’s lifelong studies, she notes how her kind words and gentle actions affect her community of Mimosas and how she may use this knowledge to affect environmental change for the better. Monica’s ideal of promoting this same endgame puts her and Emery on team Mother Nature!