My research interests focus on the ecology and evolution of plant-herbivore interactions. More specifically, I am interested in understanding the joint impacts of host plant traits and natural enemies (insect predators and parasitoids) on insect herbivore life history traits, behavior, population dynamics, and host plant ranges. Along with students, I am also investigating the effects of climate change on species interactions.
My research focuses on the role of behavior, by both plants and insects, in mediating interactions among the two groups of organisms. The sensory and behavioral attributes of insects, including vision, taste, smell, and touch, as well as a capacity to learn and remember, ultimately shape the insects’ ability to interact with and exert selection on plants and on other insects. Similarly, the active behavior of plants allows them to take advantage of insects’ sensory and behavioral capabilities.
I serve as Director of the GreenKids program for the Audubon Naturalist Society. GreenKids is a grant-funded educational outreach program supported by Howard Hughes Medical Institute that provides environmental literacy support to public schools in the DC metro area. The vision of Audubon Naturalist Society is to create a larger and more diverse community of people who treasure the natural world and work to preserve it. Learn more at ANShome.org.
I am currently researching the ways that cicada outbreaks shift forest herbivore communities. My graduate research focused on interactions between plants, insects, and fungi. Specifically, I worked on how mycorrhizal fungi can make a plant more or less susceptible to insect herbivores. I also developed LeafByte, a free app for measuring leaf area and herbivory.
My research focuses on the study of plant-insect interactions within the context of global environmental change. I am interested in the ecological responses of herbivorous insects to seasonal alterations, thermal stress, and changes in the community composition of their host plants and natural enemies. Most of my research work has involved Lepidoptera from seasonal environments, both in tropical and temperate ecosystems.