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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
  • Human-safe insecticides

Selected Publications:

  • Soare T.W., A. Kumar, K.A. Naish & S. O’Donnell. 2020. Multi-year genetic sampling indicates maternal gene flow via colony emigrations in the army ant Eciton burchellii parvispinum. Insectes Sociaux 67: 155-166.
  • Barrett, M., V. Caponera, C. McNair, S. O’Donnell, & D.R. Marenda. 2020. Potential for use of erythritol as a socially-transferrable ingested insecticide for ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Journal of Economic Entomology toaa019,
  • O'Donnell, S., S. Bulova, S. Deleon, M. Barrett, & K. Fiocca. 2019. Brain structure differences between solitary and social wasps are independent of body size allometry. Journal of Comparative Physiology A 205: 911-916.
  • Baudier, K., C. D'Amelio, E. Sulger, M.P. O'Connor, & S. O'Donnell. 2019. Plastic collective endothermy in a complex animal society (army ant bivouacs: Eciton burchellii parvispinum). Ecography 42: 730-739.
  • Baudier K.M., C.L. D’Amelio, R. Malhotra, M.P. O’Connor & S. O’Donnell. 2018. Extreme insolation: climatic variation shapes the evolution of thermal tolerance at multiple scales. American Naturalist 192: 347-359.
  • O'Donnell, S., S. Bulova, M. Barrett, & C. von Beeren. 2018. Brain investment under colony-level selection: soldier specialization in Eciton army ants (Formicidae: Dorylinae). BMC Zoology 3: 3.
  • O’Donnell, S., K. Fiocca, M. Campbell, S. Bulova, P. Zelanko, & D. Velinsky. 2018. Adult nutrition and reproductive physiology: a stable isotope analysis in a eusocial paper wasp (Mischocyttarus mastigophorus, Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 76: 86.
  • O’Donnell, S. 2018. The neurobiology of climate change. Science of Nature (Naturwissenschaften) 105: 11.
  • O’Connor M.P. & S. O’Donnell. 2017. Implications of iterative communication for biological system performance. Journal of Theoretical Biology 436: 93-104.
  • O’Donnell, S. 2017. Evidence for facilitation among avian army-ant attendants: specialization and species associations across elevations. Biotropica. DOI: 10.1111/btp.12452

Current Funding

  • PI on Stein Fellowship for collaborative research in Israel (Ben Gurion University), Thermal physiology of ants and the ecology of seed dispersal, July 2018-December 2019.
  • Lead PI on Sponsored Research Agreement, Biologic Insecticides/Academic Venture Technologies, Developing erythritol as a novel human-safe insecticide (Daniel Marenda co-PI).
  • Co-PI on Wistar-Morris fund grant (D. Velinsky PI): Using stable isotopes to test the role of nutrition in division of labor.