Research Interests

Generally speaking, I am interested in understanding the dynamics between physiology, social and individual behavioral development, and community structure. Traditionally, these fields have been researched individually, without a focus on understanding the feedback between each relationship and how changes shape each other.  My research projects are designed to examine not only each individual area, but the connections between each philosophy.  This approach manifested itself in my dissertation on how herbivore communities respond to an introduced arsenic phytoremediator species, Pteris vittata L. The most exciting part of this work is the unique implications to applied and evolutionary biology.  In understanding the movement of arsenic into different trophic levels catalyzed by P. vittata, we can accurately access the value of using phytoremediators as viable treatment options (applied).  Furthermore, by detailing how arsenic hyperaccumulation affects natural predators of the plant, we can better understand how hyperaccumulation evolved and is maintained in populations today.

What is Phytoremediation?

How did hyperaccumulation evolve?

Starting in 2015, I have applied this approach to better understand the dynamics of pest insect populations.  At the USDA-ARS research facility in Wapato, WA I have focused on developing a chemical lure that attracts codling moth (Cydia pomonella).  The larvae of these moths are the proverbial “worm in an apple,” and are the main focus of pest management practices for apples in the world.  The trap and lure we are working on is based on food odorants, formally called kairomones, which attract both male and female moths.  Since female moths are the source of the larvae, these traps have a direct impact on reducing pest populations.  Kairomonal based traps are also beneficial because they do not rely on pesticides and there is potential for them to be easily scaled across orchards of  different sizes.


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