Assistant Professor of Entomology and Biology
I am interested in parasites and behavior; especially in situations where the host is social as in the case of ants and humans. I moved to Penn State in April 2011 which has been an enormously enjoyable experience. This place has everything ranging from a world class center in disease dynamics to agricultural scientists steeped in the Land Grant ethos. It has been satisfying and stimulating to watch how the many diverse activities around me are shaping how I view biology and human activities ranging from deforestation to farming.
I like different approaches. Much of my work has been in the field: I have worked in 11 countries on five continents. We are currently working in Australia, SE Asia, North America & South America. Recently I have made a concerted effort to work at the cellular level through genomic and metabolomic work. Should be fun.
Marie Curie Fellow
Charissa is a molecular biologist, interested in the complexity of fungi displayed by their very dynamic transcriptome and metabolome. She has come from strong background in fungal genetics using a well understood model system Aspergillus niger and is now applying this to the fungi that control ant behavior. Charissa has moved beyond the lab to include field work in the Amazon and Atlantic rainforests of Brazil as well as the hot and humid woods of South Carolina. She is exploring among other things how specific zombie ant fungi are at the molecular level using metabolomics and proteomics with a view to integrating the trancriptome too.
Carlsberg Post-doc fellow
Anna is a behavioral ecologist interested in how ant socities function and how they deal with disease. She has worked previously on invasive ant species and is now working on carpenter ants in Pennsylvania, Brazil & Australia and how they interact with generalist and highly specialized fungal diseases.
CAPES (Brazil) ‘Science without Borders’ Studentship
Raquel works on the spatial dynamics of disease spread in ant societies inside tropical forests. Her Masters work focused on modeling the position of ant trails and spore releasing cadavers using spatial models from architecture. She is now extending this to manipulable systems where spatial can be altered experimentally. She has a very strong background in tropical ant behavioral ecology and most recently has become very interested in biogeography of the extended phenotype
Lauren is fascinated by parasites that control ant behavior and works mostly on zombie ant fungi but also harkens after trematodes while developing a thing for Phorids. She is is doing some cool work on how disease transmits in the contexts of the social network of ant societies as well asking how variable is the death grip behavior that zombie ants express.
Emilia Sola Gracia
Emilia is interested in what the happens to infected ants inside the nest and whether the receive differential treatment. Since the infected ants will ultimately become controlled by the parasite growing inside them it could be expected that they also control ants inside the nest to take more food maximizing the parasites future success. Emilia is also developing virus as a possible model with Diane Cox-Foster’s lab at Entomology/PU
João has always been interested in the alpha-taxonomy of Ophiocordyceps and the functional morphology of the group. He has done an impressive amount of Amazonian fieldwork during his Master’s thesis at Manuas (Brazil). For his PhD work he will extend this interest into systematics of the group and trying to fugure out just how diverse the entire group is.
Annie Evans: Annie is doing a project on whether ant’s can sniff out diseas
Colleen Warley: Colleen is working on the leaf scars left by the zombie ant death grip
Chris Cairns: Chris is asking how defense in the colony is hampered by disease
Spencer Malloy: Spencer is interested in the great William Morton Wheeler and his love of nematodes in ants
Professor Yurong He is a visitor from the South China Agricultural University. She is working with James Tumlinson and myself on the changes in chemical profiles of ants during infection with fungi. We are also trying to measure the chemical changes of groups of ants.