Insects have eaten plants for around 400 million years. These interactions have given rise to most of terrestrial biodiversity. Over the past 12,000 years, humans have disrupted plant-herbivore relationships by building cities, domesticating crops, and changing the global climate. I investigate these disruptions, focusing on species that are of cultural importance, such as street trees, crops, crop wild relatives, and plants that support rare insect species. My work combines experiments, observations, citizen science, and biological collections to address key hypotheses in ecology.
As a faculty member in the Department of Entomology and Nematology, my area of research responsibility encompasses insect/virus/plant interactions and development of management strategies for insect-transmitted plant pathogens. I have worked with many insect vector species (thrips, aphids, whiteflies, leafhoppers, mealybugs) and the plant pathogens they transmit, including viruses, phytoplasma and bacteria. During the past 30 years I have delved deeply into world of thrips and the tospoviruses they transmit. My work has ranged from the organismal to the molecular and I have had the opportunity to range across disciplinary borders, working with entomologists, virologists, plant physiologists and plant breeders. Currently, I am exploring the interaction between the Western flower thrips and the plant virus, Tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV). I lead an AFRI NIFA Coordinated Agricultural Project addressing development of innovative strategies for management of thrips vectors and Tospoviruses and am a co-PI on a NSF grant aimed at revealing the early events in Sw-5 mediated resistance to TSWV in tomato.
All plants are colonized by microorganisms that influence plant traits and interactions with other species, including insects that consume or pollinate plants. I am interested in the basic and applied aspects of microbial contributions to the interaction between plants and insects. I also use these systems to answer basic ecological questions, such as what mechanisms influence plant biodiversity and trait evolution.
Dr. Kimsey's research interests include: Public health entomology; arthropods of medical importance; zoonotic disease; biology and ecology of tick-borne pathogens; tick feeding behavior and biochemistry.
We study how species interactions change over time. We apply a diversity of approaches and perspectives to a diversity of systems and questions. We do experimental community ecology. We also use observational methods, meta-analysis, conceptual synthesis, ecosystem perspectives, and theoretical models. We like data, and we like learning new things.
Dr. Williams' research interests include: Pollination ecology, bee biology with emphasis on foraging behavior, ecology and evolution of trophic specialization and plant-pollinator Interactions, landscape change and community dynamics, ecosystem services and conservation.
Dr. Westerdahl's research interests include: Applied nematology, integrated pest management, nematology extension.
Dr. Ward's research interests include: Systematics, biogeography and evolution of ants; ant-plant mutualisms; phylogeny and speciation.