Patrick Grof-Tisza, Kathy Hughes, and Eric LoPresti are current grad students in my lab. Ian Pearse is a postdoc at Cornell, but he’s in the lab much of the time.
I am interested in how herbivores juggle avoiding predation and plant defenses. What information do herbivores use to make important host plant selection decisions? Specifically my research investigates how herbivores use volatile chemicals released by damaged plants to gain information about the quality of potential host-plants. Eventually I plan to combine plant volatiles and predator cues to test the influence of both bottom-up and top-down effects on herbivore decision-making. I will explore questions related to this topic using upland cotton (Gossypium hirsutum) and some of its associated herbivores and their predators in both the lab and in the field. My research will help us to better understand the complexity of information available to and from all three trophic levels and how each level utilizes this information.
My research concerns how trophic forces structure the spatial distribution of populations and how these forces vary across spatial and temporal scales. Additionally, I seek to understand how organismal movement may interact with these structuring forces to influence within-patch dynamics. My study system consists of a generalist herbivore, a tiger moth (Platyprepia virginalis; Lepidoptera: Arctiidae), and its primary parasitoids and host plants. A twenty-plus year data set exists for the population of P. virginalis within the Bodega Marine Reserve on the northern California coast. Combining this historical data set with my ongoing manipulative field experiments and observational studies provides a rare opportunity to identify and possibly explain long-term patterns and gives context to more recent population trends.
My research examines the factors that enable some herbivores to colonize novel host plants and enable some host plants to be colonized by novel herbivores. I have used oak trees to explore these two issues. The UCD campus arboretum contains a ‘common garden’ of approximately 60 oak species from around the world along with the native valley oak. I have created a phylogeny of the oak species using molecular methods and have found that relatedness to the native oak is a strong predictor of herbivory, as are several other plant traits such as the phenology of leaf development. I have repeated this analysis at other arboreta across North America to compare results with other native species, other than valley oak. I am interested in understanding the proximal mechanisms that herbivores use to recognize their hosts.