We are in the Dept of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Dept of Entomology at Cornell University. Our lab studies the ecology and evolution of plant-insect interactions, including aspects of herbivory, community ecology, defense theory, phenotypic plasticity, Chemical Ecology, and coevolution. Research projects include work on local biodiversity, milkweeds, and Monarch butterflies. See also the Cornell Chemical Ecology Group. We are especially keen to work on combining comparative phylogenetic approaches with experimental evolutionary ecology as a means to link natural history, evolutionary convergence, and strong inference towards understanding function and ecological outcomes.

Katie, Patty, Tobias, Anurag, Lina, Jacob, and Amy (summer 2016)

 

Thanks to undergraduate researchers!

lab with undergrads 2017 Our lab always has a cadre of excellent undergraduate researchers.  This academic year was especially great as five students engaged in various projects from the study of bumble bee foraging and learning to mechanisms of toxicity in the Malagasy stem-succulent genus Pachypodium.  We are proud of and grateful to all of you… and best wishes to our two graduates, Aliya… Read more

Popping the cork!

P1080824 A long-held tradition in E&EB at Cornell (and probably at most institutions) is that of popping a cork when graduate students meet particular milestones. The bubbly can take many forms, from Champagne to sparkling water.  For us, the most familiar events are the “A” and “B” exams, for passing the qualifying exam (to become a PhD candidate, typically at the… Read more

A primer on coevolution: monarch & milkweeds

Asclepias spp seed diversity (ellen woods) Coevolution is a special kind of evolution. And monarchs and milkweeds exemplify this special process. In particular, what makes coevolution special is reciprocity. In other words, coevolution is one species that evolves in response to the other, and the other species evolves in response to the first. Thus, it is a back-and-forth that has the potential to spiral out of… Read more

Outreach: from elementary schools to diversity in graduate school

DSC 0068 Folks in the lab are frequently engaged in outreach activities, ranging from visits to elementary schools to high school teacher training. In the past year, we have visited South Seneca and Belle Sherman elementary schools in Ithaca, and the Lincoln Street Elementary School in Waverly, NY.  We also participate in Expanding Your Horizons events, Cornell Entomology’s Insectapalooza, Cornell Institute for… Read more

Monarch remigration, book festival, and breakfast tacos

1 I recently returned from a spring trip to the Austin, TX area in search of re-migrating monarch butterflies: 8-month old animals weighing less than a dollar bill, that had traveled for thousands of miles, rested in Mexico for 5 months, and crossed the border again.  A postdoc in the lab, Patty Jones, joined for the trip, which auspiciously started with… Read more

Q&A: Monarchs and Milkweed

welshii2 The following is a Q&A just posted to the Princeton University Press website and blog. What makes monarchs and milkweeds so special? AA: Monarchs and milkweed are remarkable creatures, they’re on a wild ride! From the monarch’s perspective, its only food as a caterpillar is the milkweed plant. This makes them highly specialized, highly evolved, and very picky eaters indeed.… Read more

Early reviews & events: Monarchs and Milkweed

Monarchs and Milkweed is now available, although the official release date from Princeton University Press in April 11. On Saturday April 8th, I will be participating in the San Antonio Book Festival.  Early reviews have been positive (thank you!), including a whirlwind summary in the Washington Post, which emphasizes conservation issues and my argument that milkweed limitation is not driving… Read more

Gordon Conference – Cornell connections

The women of Cornell’s plant-herbivore group (Jennifer, Natasha, Zoe, Katja, Katie, Lina, and Aino) recently returned from the plant-herbivore interactions gordon research conference. Pictures below by Jennifer Thaler.  As usual, Jennifer described the GRC as a love-fest, seeing old friends and meeting new colleagues.  Especially fun for those in attendance (I was home looking after the family) were all of… Read more

The importance of academic service in research communities

By Lina Arcila Hernández and Katie Holmes In recent conversations mulling over the history of science, we’ve talked about a shift in the social environment that scientists     experience. It seems that historically, scientific knowledge has been built by highly creative individuals driven by an acute desire to understand the world around them. And still today, scientists spend a big part… Read more

Jigsaw #3 – Specialists vs. Generalists

Last week in the Plant-Interactions-Group we had our 3rd JIGSAW session. Our topic was specialists vs. generalists in plant-herbivore interactions.  I was inspired to cover this topic because it is a persistent issue, one that has been discussed widely in ecology for decades. Are specialists and generalists fundamentally different in their ecological and evolutionary relationships with plants?  Is this an… Read more

The oldest butterfly?

It’s unclear when humans became humans.  Presumably it was a gradual growth of our consciousness over the eons.  There are some things, however, that appear to distinguish us from most other animals.  For example, our artistic depictions.  From the deepest, darkest caves have emerged pictures of humanity from thousands of years ago.  And in an Egyptian tomb, that of Nebamun,… Read more

Monarch population size over winter 2016-2017 announced!

The estimates of the monarch butterfly overwintering population were announced Thursday February 9th by WWF Mexico.  The butterflies are so dense at their dozen or so mountain-top clustering sites that overwintering butterflies cannot be counted.  Instead, the area of forest that is densely coated with butterflies (at about 5,000 butterflies per square meter looking up into the canopy) is estimated… Read more

PIG: The jigsaw experiment

Cornell’s Plant-Insect Group, affectionately known as PIG, has been meeting for weekly discussions every semester for at least 12 years.  In the old days, Paul Feeny and Dick Root would join us for inspiring discussions, merging the past with the future.  These days, the Ithaca group, digitally connected with folks in Geneva, NY, is frequently a gaggle of over 30… Read more

Where do monarch butterflies come from?

The plight of monarch butterflies is often in the news and many scientists around the world are working hard to understand their annual migratory cycle.  How do the monarchs produced during summer in the northern reaches of America contribute to the overwintering population in Mexico?  The origins of monarch butterflies that make it to Mexico has been hotly debated and… Read more

Winter Walks 2017 #1

Winter Walks are a tradition of the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at Cornell University, started by Professor Peter Marks in the 1970s.  Winter walks grew out of the teaching of Plant Ecology field labs (taught in the fall), as students wanted to continue Friday afternoon outings in the “spring” semester.  So while many animals are dormant, gorges are icy,… Read more

Monarch book!

My new book, Monarchs and Milkweed, a highly illustrated popular science book will be available in late March from Princeton University Press.   Here is what Carl Safina, author of Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel, says: It’s impossible to imagine the world without monarch butterflies. But they face mounting challenges. This clear, fact-packed book looks at this astonishing and… Read more

Welcome to the new lab page!

Hi folks! Welcome to the revised landing page, with the added benefit of blog posts.  You’ll see posts related to interesting ecology and evolutionary biology, monarch butterflies, and and our plant-insect interactions weekly discussions here.  For this first post, I simply want to let you know that past “Lab News” back to 2009 can be found here.… Read more