For a better experience, click the Compatibility Mode icon above to turn off Compatibility Mode, which is only for viewing older websites.

Sean O'Donnell, PhD

Sean O'Donnell, PhD

Department of Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science
Department of Biology
Office: PISB 321
Phone: 215.571.4177
Lab Location: PISB 310 E
Lab Phone: 215.571.4198
Additional Sites: O'Donnell Lab


  • Postdoctoral Fellow, NSF (DEB-9303244) and University of California/NSF Animal Behavior Research Training Grant. University of California-Davis, 1993-1996
  • PhD, Zoology and Entomology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1990-1993
  • MS, Entomology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1989
  • BS, Biology Cum Laude, Saint Joseph's University (Philadelphia PA), 1986

Research Interests:

  • Brain plasticity and the evolution of brain structure
  • Social behavior and division of labor, especially of eusocial Hymenoptera
  • Thermal ecology and thermal physiology
  • Network models of social group organization
  • Behavior and ecology of bird-army ant interactions

Selected Publications:

  • O’Donnell S., S.J. Bulova, S. DeLeon, P. Khodak, S. Miller, & E. Sulger. 2015. Distributed cognition and social brains: reductions in mushroom body investment accompanied the origins of sociality in wasps (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Proceedings of the Royal Society B 282: 20150791.
  • Baudier K.M., A. E. Mudd, S.C. Erickson, & S. O’Donnell. 2015. Microhabitat and body size effects on heat tolerance: implications for responses to climate change (army ants: Formicidae, Ecitoninae). Journal of Animal Ecology 84: 1322-1330.
  • Arcilla N., L.H. Hollbech, & S. O'Donnell. 2015. Severe declines of understory birds follow illegal logging in Upper Guinea forests of Ghana, West Africa. Biological Conservation 188: 41-49.
  • McCann S., T. Jones, O. Moeri, C. Scott, S. O’Donnell & G. Gries. 2015. Red-throated Caracara, a falconid raptor, rivals predatory impact of army ants on social wasps. Insectes Sociaux 62: 101-108.
  • Rehan S.M, S.J. Bulova, & S. O’Donnell. 2015. Cumulative effects of foraging behavior and social dominance on brain development in a facultatively social bee (Ceratina australensis). Brain, Behavior and Evolution 85: 117-124.
  • O’Donnell S., A. Kumar & C.J. Logan. 2014. Do Nearctic migrant birds compete with residents at army ant raids? A geographical and seasonal analysis. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 126: 474-487.
  • Sulger E., N. Mcaloon, S.J. Bulova, J. Sapp & S. O’Donnell. 2014. Evidence for adaptive brain tissue reduction in obligate social parasites (Polyergus mexicanus) relative to their hosts (Formica fusca). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 113: 415-422.
  • Baudier K.M., S.D. Kaschock-Marenda, N. Patel, K.L. Diangelus, S. O’Donnell & D.R. Marenda. 2014. Erythritol, a non-nutritive sugar alcohol sweetener and the main component of Truvia®, is a palatable ingested insecticide. PLOS ONE. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0098949
  • O’Donnell S., M.R. Clifford, S. Deleon, C. Papa, N. Zahedi & S.J. Bulova. 2014. A test of neuroecological predictions using paperwasp caste differences in brain structure (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Behavioral Ecology & Sociobiology 68: 529-536.
  • Soare T.W., A. Kumar, K.A. Naish & S. O’Donnell. 2014. Genetic evidence for habitat effects on colony dispersal in the army ant Eciton burchellii. Molecular Ecology 23: 96-109.

Current Funding

  • Lead PI on Eppley Foundation for Research, Toward developing erythritol as a novel human-safe insecticide (Daniel Marenda co-PI), 2015-16.
  • PI on National Geographic Society Committee for Research and Exploration grant: Using automated radio tracking to study avian exploitation of Neotropical army ants, 2014-2015.
  • Co-PI on Wistar-Morris fund grant (awarded 2014, T. Livshutz PI): Neuroecology and pollination biology of SE Asian social wasps.
  • Co-PI on Wistar-Morris fund grant (awarded 2014, D. Velinsky PI): Using stable isotopes to test the role of nutrition in division of labor.