Agrawal, Anurag

Cornell Faculty Member
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My research program addresses questions in the ecology and evolution of interactions between plants and animals. In particular, I focus on the generally antagonistic interactions between plants and insect herbivores and ultimately seek to understand the complexity of community-wide interactions. What ecological factors allow the coexistence of similar species? What evolutionary factors led to the diversification of species? In total, plants and insect herbivores comprise about one half of earthÕs macroscopic biodiversity and herbivory accounts for major losses in agriculture. Given that herbivory is the conduit through which most of plantsÕ autotrophic energy is transmitted to the rest of the food web, the focus on plant-herbivore interactions is justifiably important. My approach to science in general involves 1) rigorous, manipulative field experiments to test for the importance of conceptually or theoretically developed interactions, 2) the search for novel interactions which may be pervasive in nature but have escaped our attention, and 3) a keen interest in teaching and mentoring students at all levels of education. My research is mostly conducted in New York field communities, although when appropriate I travel to other field sites (Costa Rica, Bahamas, Finland). During the colder months, my lab conducts more mechanistic experiments in glasshouses and growth chambers. We are currently focused on three major proects: 1) the community and evolutionary ecology of plant-herbivore relationships, 2) factors that make non-native plants successful invaders, and 3) novel opportunities for pest management of potatoes. Updated information is available at

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