- Roles of bacterial symbionts in ant evolution
- Function, stability, and dynamics of heritable symbiont communities in aphids
- Genomic mechanisms driving correlations between symbiosis and insect ecology
- Coevolutionary histories between insects and their microbes
Symbiosis is a defining feature of eukaryotic biology. Animals are no exception, exhibiting nearly ubiquitous relationships with bacterial symbionts that shape their nutrition, digestion, and defense. Many of these interactions are ancient and highly specialized, having enabled the colonization of previously inhospitable niches and the subsequent diversification of their animal hosts.
Through a combination of molecular, bioinformatic, phylogenetic, and experimental techniques, my lab’s research investigates the functional significance and evolutionary histories of symbioses between animals and bacteria. Our lab- and field-based studies focus on two research systems, aphids and ants, enabling explorations of symbiont-mediated adaptation across recent to ancient timescales. Our findings suggest the potential for defensive symbionts to drive rapid adaptation in aphid populations and the impacts of nutritional symbionts on the success of several diverse lineages of herbivorous ants.
Current Federal Funding
NSF, Integrative and Organismal Biology, Award #1754597. "Collaborative Research: Competition and cooperation in the defensive symbiont communities of aphids.” $487,591. 2018-2022. (role: PI; with PI Kerry Oliver, Associate Professor, Department of Entomology, University of Georgia)
NSF, Dimensions of Biodiversity, Award #1442144 “Dimensions: Identifying how the ecological and evolutionary interactions between host and symbiont shape holobiont biodiversity.” 2015-2020. (PI, along with: PI Corrie Moreau, Assistant Curator of Entomology, Field Museum of Natural History; PI John Wertz, Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, Calvin College; PI Scott Powell, Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, George Washington University).