Welcome to the Pierce Lab!
We study the behavioral ecology of species interactions, including insect–plant associations, symbioses between ants and other organisms, and endosymbioses between ants and their bacterial associates. We focus in particular on the evolution of mutualism, using field, laboratory and theoretical approaches. We are engaged in analyzing the evolutionary history of a range of insects (mostly Lepidoptera and Hymenoptera), and are using these phylogenies to investigate life history evolution, biogeography, and patterns of community assembly. At a functional level, we are also exploring the proximate mechanisms underlying a model genetic plant–pathogen–insect interaction. This research is relevant to both biomedical models of host defense/pathogen virulence, and agricultural models of insect/plant coevolution. We are also conservation biologists, and as part of our work in the museum, we are collaborating with the Center for Tropical Forest Science to survey insect biodiversity and natural history in the forests of Southeast Asia.
- Evolution of mutualism
- Phylogeny, biogeography and systematics
- Functional analyses of plant–insect–pathogen interactions
- Biodiversity and life history evolution of insects