Work in our group is broadly focused on the role of biological communication in ecology and more specifically on the role of chemical signaling in mediating interactions among plants, insects, and other organisms. In this talk, I will discuss recent work on the communicative functions of volatile cues and signals. Much of our work in this area has explored the ways in which changes in plant odors induced by herbivory or pathogen infection convey ecologically relevant information to other organisms, including insect herbivores and their natural enemies.
Open to public
- Thu, Oct 25, 2018, 12:30 pm
- Thu, Oct 18, 2018, 12:30 pm
Studies of tree cover dynamics and tree-grass ratios in savannas have progressed along two parallel trajectories: the demographic/trophic perspective emphasizes the role of disturbance and herbivory, while the mechanistic/ecophysiological perspective focuses on tree-grass competition for water. I draw on research in the Serengeti ecosystem of East Africa to demonstrate the importance of the top-down processes highlighted by the first approach while exploring some of its limitations.
- Thu, Oct 11, 2018, 12:30 pm
Generalist herbivores are important consumers of most plant species, yet evolutionary and ecological theory has mainly focused on the importance of interactions between specialized natural enemies and host plants. Consequently, the vast majority of studies on the evolution of plant chemical defenses have typically included one plant, a few metabolites, and a small set of handpicked herbivores.
- Thu, Oct 4, 2018, 12:30 pm
Prediction of community dynamics remains challenging, but important for a range of conceptual and applied ecological contexts (e.g. species invasions, sustainable harvesting, restoration planning). Functional traits offer a potential solution via their often-strong linkages with environmental variables – perhaps community dynamics can be predicted by determining the species with appropriate traits for a given environment. But do the conceptual arguments hold up, and does the approach work in practice?
- Thu, Sep 27, 2018, 12:30 pm
The origin of multicellular animals from a unicellular protozoan represents a pivotal transition in life’s history. We are using choanoflagellate protozoans (close relatives of animals) that can be unicellular and can form multicellular colonies as a model system to study functional consequences of being colonial vs.
- Thu, Sep 20, 2018, 12:00 pm
Human modifications to the natural world present extreme and novel environments for many species around the globe. These drastic environmental changes provide contemporary experiments to test hypotheses regarding climate-mediated evolution and adaptation. Additionally, they help us to better understand, predict and mitigate deleterious effects of such events. Dr.
- Thu, Sep 13, 2018, 12:00 pm
Many mutations that occur in genomes are deleterious, resulting in a decrease in reproductive fitness. In this talk, I will present our recent work on estimating fitness effects of deleterious mutations using genetic variation data from natural populations. First, I will discuss our new computational approach, FitDadi, to estimate fitness effects and how this approach leads to improved estimates of the proportion of deleterious mutations in the human genome.
- Thu, Dec 14, 2017, 12:30 pm
- Thu, Dec 7, 2017, 12:30 pm
Our lab studies behavior and circuits using Drosophila larvae as a model. One of our interests is in the social behavior of larvae. We study two paradigms: learned visual recognition of the motion of adjacent larvae and visually guided cooperative movements. We are taking both a neurobiological and more recently an ecological approach towards dissecting the mechanisms of these complex traits.
- Thu, Nov 30, 2017, 12:30 pm
The evolution of herbivory (plant parasitism) in insects is a textbook example of a key innovation. Although comprising one-quarter of eukaryotic species, herbivores are present in one-third of insect orders because plants present major evolutionary ‘hurdles’ that when overcome, allow for invasion of a new adaptive zone. However, the origin of the herbivorous form is unknown because of its ancient and sudden evolution.