Raquel works on the Ophiocordyceps-Camponotus interaction across multiple spatio-temporal scales. Her work spans from metabolites to continents in order to gain a broader perspective on how this specialized parasite and its host interact. She has a very strong background in tropical ant behavioral ecology, and she spent over 20 months in the Brazilian Atlantic rainforest mapping the prevalence of Ophiocordyceps at the ant colony and population levels. Raquel is now working on the transcriptomics and metabolomics of behavioral manipulation following infection.
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 Manaus (Brazil). For his PhD work he will extend this interest to explore the systematics and biodiversity of the myriad of Ophiocordyceps species and complexes.
Lauren is fascinated by the adaptive interplay of disease within societies. She uses social network analysis of ant colonies to ask how societal organization impacts disease transmission and vice versa. She is also passionate about behaviorally-manipulating parasites in general (trematodes! phorids!) and enjoys using these charismatic systems as a way to engage students in science.
Emilia is interested in the social interactions between infected and uninfected individuals. By using continuous observations, over the course of fungal-pathogen development, she tries to untangle the intricacies of social insect interactions. Her research focuses on individual behaviors and spatial dynamics between these groups of infected and uninfected individuals. Are these infected individuals detected within the nest? How do these infected individuals change the behavioral dynamics within the nest?
Maridel seeks to understand proximate mechanisms of behavior, or the nitty-gritty details of how organisms accomplish all the amazing things they do. In the Hughes lab, she is using microscopy techniques to look for clues as to how a microbial parasite without a brain can cause precise behavioral changes in its animal host. Serial Block-Face Scanning Electron Microscopy (SBF-SEM) and Confocal Laser Scanning Microscopy (CLSM) allow her to look inside infected ants at nanometer-scale resolution to monitor how the fungus develops and how it affects ant tissues (muscle and brain) throughout infection.
Shanshan joined Hughes Lab in 2014 as a Ph.D student. Her focus is on pest control, particularly forms that are determined by host and fungal parasite interactions. Clues can be found by looking into the metabolomics using LC-MS/MS analysis. She studies the metabolomic changes of the brain in ants after infection, with the ultimate goal of understanding how fungal control ants behavior.
Megan is passionate about farmer behavior and the agricultural impact of insects. She will soon begin eagerly pursuing the primary issues that plague the cocoa farmers of Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and the Ivory Coast, which, together, form the region from which more than two thirds of the world’s cocoa is produced. The source of much of the region’s plight is the symbiotic interaction between certain ant species within the genus Acropyga and mealybugs, a common agricultural pest. This relationship fosters the spread of two Theobroma cacao pathogens, Phytophthora and CSSV (Cacao Swollen-Shoot Virus). This is a problem on which David has given talks many, many times, but, now that we have acquired Megan, the lab can venture even further, providing hands-on assistance to farmers in Africa with the use of thorough, behavioral ecology and biology-based research.
In addition to her management of the lab's website and digital content, Colbie has also contributed to the technological advancement of the lab, designing and fabricating new experimental platforms for observation. Colbie is fascinated by the abiotic factors that influence biology and currently seeks to answer the following question, "what are the abiotic factors governing parasite life history traits and how do they influence host-parasite interactions?"