Mixed Metaphor of Insect Research

Postdoc Scott Villa shows off his new mask. Postdoc Scott Villa tried to blend in amongst the insects in his incubator today, wearing a monarch inspired mask. Unfortunately, the squash bugs were not fooled. 

Scott works both in the de Roode lab, studying sexual selection in monarch butterflies and in the Gerardo lab, studying hybridization and speciation in squash bugs. Sometimes, he gets confused and mixes the two together. 

Summer Research Thrives Despite the Distance

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.

Zoom Science. Undergrads Syneja and Whitney meet with Scott, their summer research mentor.

Dr. Erica Harris receives a PhD and mentoring recognition

After an unprecedented COVID-quarantine finish, Erica Harris, through the power of ZOOM, successfully defended her PhD thesis on the influence of gut microbes on monarch butterfly parasite resistance. Throughout her graduate career, Erica mentored numerous undergraduates in our lab and in the lab of her co-advisor, Jaap de Roode. She has also mentored students through such programs as ESA-SEEDs, which supports the mentoring of students from diverse backgrounds who are interested in ecology. In recognition of her commitment to mentoring, Erica received the Laney Graduate School Eleanore Main Student Mentor Award. Erica will continue her science career through a combined research-teaching postdoc at Spelman University. 

Note from former graduate student Kim Hoang to Erica upon her successful defense.

A well deserved award

Graduate student Erica Harris received the Graduate Division of Biological and Biomedical Sciences Student Mentor award in recognition for her outstanding efforts in mentoring students in and out of the lab. Erica has served as a mentor to numerous undergraduate researchers and to undergraduates in the Mellon Mays and ESA-SEEDS programs. She will be honored at the upcoming Graduate Division banquet.

Attine 2018

With support from Emory’s SPRINT program with the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP), we brought a small group of biologists together to explore latest research and  potential for collaboration in studying the evolution of the fungus-growing ant symbiosis. Attendees included (from left to right in the photo): top row, Cameron Currie (Wisconsin), Andre Rodrigues (UNESP-RC – Brazil), Tim Read (Emory), Kendra Autumn (Utah), Bryn Dentinger (Utah), Caio Leal-Dutra (Aberystwyth), Aileen Berasategui (Emory), Ted Schultz (Smithsonian); bottom row, Caitlin Conn (Emory), Nicole Gerardo, Quimi Montoya (UNESP, Emory) and Mauricio Bacci (UNESP-RC).

It was an amazing few days of science.


Nicole had the opportunity to see former lab techs Tarik Acevedo and Tiff Alcaide while visiting Penn State this week. Tarik is currently a grad student in soil sciences at Penn State, and Tiff is a lab tech in soil sciences.

Great to see these two!

ESA 2018

The Entomological Society of America Meeting brought together researchers from around the world studying insect symbioses. Jacob Russell and Molly Hunter organized a great session.

Martin Kaltenpoth, Hassan Salem and Nicole Gerardo after an excellent coffee at ESA in Vancouver.