Community and evolutionary ecology of insect herbivores CALS Impact Statement uri icon

abstract

  • We are studying the patterns of attack by a community of insect herbivores on plants; the work involves field biology, chemical ecology, genetics, and entomology. Our basic research involves milkweed plants, nearly 100 species from North America, which grow in various habitats and are attacked by a specialized community of insects. Some of the work is evolutionary in terms of quantifying phylogenetic patterns associated with the evolution of specialization (in insects parasites) and other work is more ecological, based on community interactions. Our more applied work considers why invasive plant species are successful. He again, we take a community and evolutionary approach. Finally, we are working on the insect and disease pests of potato, and attempting to develop novel means of pest control by manipulating the plants` own defense systems. In sum, we are motivated by studying the interactions between plants and their pests and strongly believe in the synergy between basic and applied work. My lab group freely moves between study systems, from tropical rainforest to local agroecosystems. We are also committed to integrative studies that combine techniques from ecological genetics, chemistry, and field biology.