Origin and diversification of insect wings, as revealed by RNAi and transcriptomics in a hemipteran insect (online pub)
Review and new perspective on why metabolic enzyme loci are so frequently targets of selection (online pub)
variation affecting the hypoxia inducible factor pathway affects insect
tracheal development, phyisology and ecology (online
evidence for a surface skimming insect in the Carboniferous (online
14th Annual Strickland Memorial Lecture in Entomology at U. of
Alberta on Evol of Insect Flight
interests are highly integrative, spanning
physiological ecology, functional genomics, evolutionary ecology,
and behavior. In the most general terms, I am interested in how organisms work, and
work that way. I investigate mechanistic details of
physiology, along with ecological and historical reasons why particular
physiological mechanisms have evolved.
Projects underway in my laboratory concentrate on using transcriptome and genome data from ecologically important species to inform physiological and mechanistic studies that further our understanding of how organisms operate and evolve in nature. Using that approach, we are presently examining the respiratory and energetic physiology in a butterfly (Melitaea cinxia) that is a model system for metapopulation biology. In another collaborative project (with Liza Comita, Scott Mangan, and Claude dePamphilis, working with the Forest Dynamics Plot in Panama) we are examining how reductions in local population size affect allelic diversity of pathogen resistance genes of tropical rainforest trees, and how that affects plant-pathogen interactions.
My lab has a long-standing interest in the way alternative splicing of a muscle gene, troponin-t, affects contractile performance. We discovered that quantitative variation in the relative abundance of troponin-t splice forms is tightly related to the body weight of both insects and mammals. This provides a molecular indicator for how much a body "thinks" that it weighs. In collaboration with Dr. Ruud Schilder and colleagues at Hershey College of Medicine, we examined physiological conditions that disrupt normal troponin-t splicing, including obesity. Dr. Schilder is moving forward with this work on numerous fronts, with opportunities for ongoing collaborations with me and my students.
I have a long-standing interest in the way size and allometry (scaling) affect animal performance and energetics. We discovered that the mass scaling of force output by biological motors is a universal relationship that extends to human-designed motors as well. Using those results, I have worked with Adrian Bejan, an engineer and physicist at Duke university to generate a fundamental theory of animal locomotion. There are many potential ways to move forward with new studies combining empirical and theoretical approaches to gain a robust understanding of various aspects of organismal design and function.
Another longstanding and
ongoing project involves the evolution of insect
using stoneflies and other hemimetabolous insects. I am
collaborating with Dr. Aleks Popadic and his students at Wayne State
Univesity; we are combining RNAi and transcriptomic approaches to
examine the origin and diversification of insect wings.
Nature photography and etc. - link to a site where I to post some image galleries
Some present and past denizens of the lab: