The discovery process in science often reveals surprising results. Dr. Staswick and his team had spent years following the clues from well-conducted experiments that revealed the biological role of jasmonic acid and the plant genes that regulate its signal-inducing capacity. Clues from studies by the Staswick team and other research groups implicated jasmonic acid signalling, in both abiotic (crushing or cutting) and biotic (cabbage looper) stress response.
Prior to Scott’s experiment with the Arabidopsis plants and hungry cabbage loopers, the team conducted experiments with wild-type and jar1 plants that had been wounded by mechanically cutting or crushing a leaf or petiole. The Staswick lab used a reliable method for measuring the amount of JA-Isoleucine (JA-Ile); this is indicative of the amount of JA that was bound to the amino acid isoleucine. Therefore, they could measure the quantity of JA-Ile in the plant in response to the wounding treatment.
The working hypothesis of the research team was that making JA-Ile was a key step in the response pathway that allowed plants to mount a defense against feeding insects. Scott's assignment was to plan and conduct exeperiments to test this hypothesis.