Sean O'Donnell, PhD

Associate Department Head; Professor, Department of Biodiversity, Earth & Environmental Science

Sean O'Donnell, PhD

Office: PISB 321
Phone: 215.571.4177
Lab : PISB 310 E
Lab Phone: 215.571.4198


  • Postdoctorate, National Science Foundation Division of Environmental Biology (DEB-9303244) and University of California-Davis NSF Animal Behavior Research Training Grant. Laboratories of Robert E. Page, Jr., and Hugh Dingle. University of California-Davis, September 1993 to August 1996.
  • PhD, Zoology and Entomology, advisors Robert Jeanne and Jack Hailman, University of Wisconsin-Madison, January 1990 to May 1993.
  • MS, Entomology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, December 1989.
  • BS, Biology: Cum Laude, Saint Joseph's University (Philadelphia PA), May 1986.

Research Interests

Community ecology and biological diversity of tropical social insects, especially of army ants (Formicidae: Ecitoninae)

  • Behavior and ecology of bird-army ant interactions, especially in montane forests
  • Social behavior, especially of eusocial Hymenoptera: Behavioral, genetic and physiological regulation of division of labor in wasps (Vespidae) and bees (Apidae)
  • Brain/behavior relationships and the evolution of brain structure in social insects
  • Network models of social group organization

Selected Publications

Logan, C., S. O’Donnell, & N. Clayton. 2011. A case of mental time travel in ant-following birds? Behavioral Ecology 22: 1149-1153.

O’Donnell, S., M.R. Clifford, & Y. Molina. 2011. A comparative analysis of constraints and caste differences in brain investment among social paper wasps. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 108: 7107-7112.

Kaspari, M., S. Powell, J. Lattke, & S. O’Donnell. 2011. Predation and patchiness in the tropical litter: do swarm-raiding army ants skim the cream or drain the bottle? Journal of Animal Ecology 80: 818-823.

Kronauer, D.J.C., S. O’Donnell, J.J. Boomsma, & N.E. Pierce. 2011. Strict monandry in the ponerine army ant genus Simopelta suggests that colony size and complexity drive mating system evolution in social insects. Molecular Ecology 20: 420-428.

O’Donnell, S., A. Kumar & C. Logan. 2010. Army ant raid attendance and bivouac-checking behavior by Neotropical montane forest birds. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 122: 503-512.

Molina, Y., Harris, R. & S. O’Donnell. 2009. Brain organization mirrors the evolution of caste determination, colony founding and nest architecture in paper wasps (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Proceedings of the Royal Society B 276: 3345-3351.

Jones, T.A., N.A. Donlan & S. O’Donnell. 2009. Growth and pruning of mushroom body Kenyon cell dendrites during worker behavioral development in the paper wasp, Polybia aequatorialis (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Neurobiology of Learning and Memory 92: 485-495 and Journal cover.

Kumar, A., J.T. Longino, R.K. Colwell & S. O’Donnell. 2009. Elevational patterns of diversity and abundance of eusocial paper wasps (Vespidae) in Costa Rica. Biotropica 41: 338-346.

Kumar, A. & S. O’Donnell. 2009. Elevation and forest clearing effects on foraging differ between surface and subterranean army ants (Formicidae: Ecitoninae). Journal of Animal Ecology 78: 91-97.

O’Donnell, S. & S.J. Bulova. 2007. Worker connectivity: a simulation model of variation in worker communication and its effects on task performance. Insectes Sociaux 54: 211-218.