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Faculty Experts

Sean O'Donnell

Sean O'Donnell, PhD

Professor and Associate Department Head, Department of Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science and Department of Biology

College of Arts and Sciences

Contact:

so356@drexel.edu

215.571.4177

O’Donnell is a biologist and ecologist with research interests that span evolutionary neurobiology, social behavior, population biology and community ecology. His tropical field work in Costa Rica and Ecuador has focused on social insects such as paperwasps, as well as army ants and their ecological relationships with antbirds. In social insects, O’Donnell’s research focuses on brain plasticity and the evolution of brain and behavior, examining relationships between brain evolution and social structure and behavior. In army ants and ant birds, his research includes behavioral ecology and population genetics of species’ adaptation to elevation as a system for studying impacts of climate change.

O’Donnell is an engaging and outgoing expert on entomology and tropical biology who has appeared in documentary programs including “Animal Superpowers” hosted by Patrick Stewart on National Geographic Wild and “Wild Things” hosted by Dominic Monaghan on BBC America.

More information about O’Donnell

For news media inquiries, contact Frank Otto at fmo26@drexel.edu or 215.571.4244.

In the News

  • Is This Artificial Sweetener Too Dangerous to Eat?

    A study on the birth control effect that the artificial sweetener behind Trivia has on fruit flies, authored by Sean O'Donnell, PhD, and Daniel Marenda, PhD, both professors in the College of Arts and Sciences, was the focus of a June 1 Food52 article. They were both quoted in a related story on the website of WESH-TV (NBC-2, Orlando, Florida), which was picked up by network affiliates across the country. Fox News' "The Daily Meal" also covered the study on June 12.

  • This Artificial Sweetener Can Double as a Pesticide: Should You Still Eat It?

    Sean O'Donnell, PhD, a professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, was quoted in a June 5 Daily Meal story about his study that showed how the artificial sweetener Truvia limits the egg production of fruit flies.

  • Is This Artificial Sweetener Too Dangerous to Eat?

    A study on the birth control effect that the artificial sweetener behind Trivia has on fruit flies, authored by Sean O'Donnell, PhD, and Daniel Marenda, PhD, both professors in the College of Arts and Sciences, was the focus of a June 1 Food52 article. They were both quoted in a related story on the website of WESH-TV (NBC-2, Orlando, Florida), which was picked up by network affiliates across the country. Fox News' "The Daily Meal" also covered the study on June 12.

  • Popular Artificial Sweetener Also Works as Pesticide and Insect Birth Control

    Sean O’Donnell, PhD, a professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, was quoted in a May 23 UPI story on a study he did with Daniel Marenda, PhD, an associate professor in the College, that showed the sweetener in Truvia is deadly to young flies and can be an effective pesticide. Philly Voice also reported the story.

  • Infrequently Asked Questions: How Do Fireflies Light Up?

    Sean O’Donnell, PhD, professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, was interviewed for a Sept. 7 Philly Voice article exploring why and how fireflies light up.

  • Survival of the Warmest!

    Sean O'Donnell, PhD, professor, and Kaitlin Baudier, a graduate student, were both quoted in a June 30 Daily Mail story covering their study on how ants that live on mountains keep nests warm in the colder climate.

  • Underground Ants Regrew Brain Parts to See the Light

    Sean O’Donnell, PhD, a professor and associate department head of Biodiversity, Earth & Environmental Science (BEES) in the College of Arts and Science, was featured in a March 11 LiveScience article profiling his research on ants that evolved to regrow parts of their brain related to sight.

  • How Social Societies May Play a Role in Insect Brain Size

    Sean O’Donnell, PhD, a professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, was interviewed for a feature story on WHYY-FM’s “The Pulse” on July 10 about his research on the evolution of cognition in social insects.

  • Mind Meld: Social Wasps Share Brainpower

    A LiveScience article featuring research led by Sean O’Donnell, PhD, a professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, on social behavior and intelligence in wasps, ran in Yahoo!News on June 18.

  • The Distributed Brainpower of Social Insects

    Sean O’Donnell, PhD, a professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, was quoted in stories in the “Not Exactly Rocket Science” blog on National Geographic’s Phenomena and LiveScience June 9 about his new study, which provides evidence of distributed cognition, or shared brainpower, among social insects.

  • Exploiting the Infantry

    Sean O’Donnell, PhD, a professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, authored an article about birds tracking ants in the August issue of Natural History magazine.

  • Certain Artificial Sweeteners May be Toxic to Fruit Flies

    Research co-led by Daniel Marenda, PhD, an associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, and Sean O’Donnell, PhD, a professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, on the toxic effects of the sugar substitute erythritol, was featured in a story on GoodHousekeeping.com and Women’s Health Magazine on June 23-24. The discovery was inspired by a science fair project of Marenda’s son.

  • Sweetener Is Toxic To Fruit Flies

    Daniel Marenda, PhD, an associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, and Sean O’Donnell, PhD, a professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, were noted in stories about a study they co-led which identified a common sugar substitute, erythritol, as a potential safe and effective insecticide. The research, inspired by a science fair project of Marenda’s son, was featured on June 16 in Chemical and Engineering News and on WOR-AM radio (New York).

  • Boy scientist in Manayunk finds sweetener that kills fruit flies

    Daniel Marenda, PhD, an associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, and Sean O’Donnell, PhD, a professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, were quoted in stories about a study they co-led which identified a common sugar substitute, erythritol, as a potential safe and effective insecticide. The research, inspired by a science fair project of Marenda’s son, was featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer, WHYY/Newsworks, CBSNews.com, Science, The Verge, Discovery News, Live ScienceScience News’ Student Science, Xinhua (the state press agency of China) and other outlets on June 4.

  • Animal Superpowers: Army Ants

    Dr. Sean O’Donnell, a professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, was featured on “Animal Superpowers” with Patrick Stewart on NatGeo Wild, in an episode about army ants.

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