Our lab’s focus is on the evolutionary ecology of interactions between microbes and hosts. We are interested in how both beneficial and harmful microbes establish and maintain relationships with their hosts. Such associations are shaped by ecological limitations on host and symbiont range, evolutionary trade-offs for both hosts and microbes, and host immunology. We combine genomic and experimental approaches to study these forces in diverse insect-microbe systems. To address these topics, we utilize the versatility of systems in which both the hosts and their microbial partners and pathogens can be maintained in the laboratory.
Synéja and Whitney are both rising seniors at Spelman College. During the summer, with support from the LGS-SOAR program and under the guidance of postdoc Scott Villa, they spearheaded projects aimed at understanding the traits used in monarch butterfly mate choice. Synéja’s project looked at the role of male body size on mating success. Whitney’s project involved the role of male wing color and mating success. Despite being isolated at home, both did an amazing job analyzing videos of monarch behavior while coordinating experiments and data analysis with me via zoom.
Scott, their mentor, write, “without students like Synéja and Whitney, my research would have ground to a halt this summer.”
We look forward to bringing undergraduates back to the lab in the full once the pandemic is over, but, for now, we cherish the opportunities that we still have to work with such amazing students.