Ecologists and evolutionary biologists are fundamentally interested in how interactions between species influence their distribution, abundance, and evolution. My research integrates ecology and evolution from the individual to community levels to elucidate how multi-species interactions structure community dynamics and shape selection on phenotypic traits, with a continuing theme of understanding the ecology and evolution of resistance and attraction traits. I address these questions in a range of settings, including wild habitats, agricultural fields, and the urban/suburban matrix.
In recent years I have asked how floral defense traits, including nectar and pollen chemistry, affect pathogen loads in bumble bees. This novel approach is exciting for its potential to transform our understanding of the role of plant defense traits mediating bee pollinator resistance to parasites. Pollinators serve a critical role in our native ecosystems as well as our agricultural crops. By applying existing theory in new contexts, this approach opens up novel avenues of ecological research while addressing contemporary societal issues. We found that nectar secondary compounds and sunflower pollen can at times dramatically reduce infection by a common bumble bee pathogen, opening up potential for developing medicinal products or recommending plant species that maximize bee health.
BS Brown University, 1993
PhD University of California at Davis, 2000