I am a behavioral and chemical ecologist who uses laboratory bioassays and field experiments to address fundamental and applied questions about trees, their herbivores, and the natural enemies of herbivorous insects in forest ecosystems. The central focus of my research program is to identify and describe the underlying factors that contribute to the evolution and maintenance of chemical diversity within insects and plants, and how this ultimately affects their fitness. The results from my research will provide a better understanding of the ecological interactions of insects and plants within a tri-trophic framework, informing management of insects that are beneficial or damaging to forest ecosystems.
Entomological Society of America National Meeting
15 - 18 November 2020
18 - 23 July 2021
Using cameras to describe and quantify the behavior of longhorned beetles and their natural enemies in field. After longhorn beetles mate and locate a suitable host tree, they lay eggs on the bark of that tree. These eggs often take 1-2 weeks to develop. During this period of time, the eggs are susceptible to mortality from predators, parasitoids, pathogens, as well as abiotic effects such as precipitation and temperature. In the summer of 2018 I conducted field bioassays with cameras in central Illinois to evaluate the relative contributions of various natural enemies to egg mortality, and if the presence of pheromones influences response by the community of natural enemies. I will be presenting on this work at the national Entomological Society of America meeting in November 2019.
Eavesdropping by parasitic wasps. Many predators and parasitic insects use cues associated with potential prey or hosts to locate them. I evaluated attraction by parasitic wasps to pheromones of longhorn beetles for two field seasons in central Illinois. I will be presenting on the results of this work at the International Society of Chemical Ecology meeting in June 2019.
The role of multimodal cues and signals in mate-location. Longhorn beetles evaluate many cues and signals that may indicate the likelihood of locating a mate. These include but are not limited to, pheromones emitted by other individuals of the same species (or not) and volatile chemicals from trees that are hosts (or not), visual cues such as the gestalt and color of other organisms, as well as other characteristics associated with their habitat. A published study of mine indicates that visual cues increase attraction to pheromones and the importance of vision for cerambycids is worth further examination.
The ecology and evolution of interactions between ants and longhorned beetles. Ants are among the most dominant organisms on earth. The presence of ants can directly and indirectly affect the ecology and evolution of the other organisms that share the same habitat. Above, we see the the longhorned beetle, and ant-mimic, Crytophorus verrucosus (a.) next to two ants it may be potentially mimicking, Camponotus chromaiodes (b.) and Camponotus snellingi (c.). I have begun to investigate interactions between longhorned beetles and the ants they co-occur with.