What I do

I am a biologist who studies the ecology and evolution of interactions between plants and insects. I work side by side with students to investigate how these plant-insect interactions are affected by global change.

Specialization(s)

ecology, evolutionary biology, entomology, global change

Professional Biography

I received my Bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder in Environmental, Population and Organismic Biology (EPO Biology, currently called Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) and Biochemistry. After obtaining my BS, I worked as a Professional Research Assistant at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) Tundra Ecosystem Analysis and Mapping Laboratory (TEAML) at the University of Colorado. I received my Doctorate at Cornell University in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology before completing two different postdocs, one at the University of Maryland in the Entomology Department and the other at the George Washington University in the Department of Biological Sciences. I work closely with undergraduate and graduate students to both teach them about and study the ecology and evolution of interactions between plants and insects, and together we investigate how these interactions are affected by global change.

Degree(s)

  • Ph.D., Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, 2005
  • BA, Environmental, Population and Organismic Biology , University of Colorado at Boulder, 1997

Professional Affiliations

  • Ecological Society of America
  • Entomological Society of America
  • Lepidopterists’ Society
  • Sigma Xi
  • American Association of University Women

Research

My research program is integrative, drawing on techniques and theory developed in a variety of disciplines including anatomy, behavior, biogeochemistry, botany, chemistry, ecology, entomology and evolutionary biology. Students in my lab and I study the ecology and evolution of interactions between plants and insects, and together we investigate how these interactions are affected by global change. At the scale of populations and species, we are interested in why some herbivorous insects are specialists while others are generalists and how each of these groups choose their host plants. At the scale of communities, we study how natural enemies affect community structure and population dynamics of herbivorous insects. Finally, at the ecosystem scale, we have projects that investigate how nutrient cycling, resource subsidies and other disturbances may affect interactions between herbivorous insects and their host plants directly as well as indirectly by altering the impact that natural enemies and detritivores have on populations of herbivores. At all scales, we are interested in how global change affects species interactions.

Areas of Research

Ecology
Evolutionary Biology
Entomology
Global Change

Key Projects

  • Impacts of thin layer sediment deposition on salt marsh ecosystems
  • Collaborative Research: The structure of anthropod food webs: Consequences of nutrient-loading scenarios for productivity, trophic composition and food-chain length

Awards

  • Outstanding Junior Faculty Award, Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, University of Denver