Invertebrates, specifically insects, are some of the most successful organisms on Earth. However insect populations are currently in trouble. The three major drivers of insect decline are habitat loss, pollution and climate change. Research in our lab focuses on investigating the physiological and behavioral responses of animals to these major threats. Specifically we have looked at the effects of ambient humidity on insect foraging behavior and in turn how changes in this type of behavior affects insect physiological responses.
It is unclear exactly how global climate change will affect different populations of insects. The hawkmoth Hyles lineata, is an ideal model system to study this as it is distributed broadly. Our work so far has found that populations vary in the environmental factor that exerts the strongest effect on abundance based on the microclimate each population has adapted to. For example, populations found in geographical regions with large seasonal changes are most affected by temperature changes whereas those that have acclimated to more temperate climates are more affected by changes in environmental humidity.
We are interested in elucidating the effects of environmental change on insect performance. Our work has focused on the effects of changes in ambient humidity on critical thermal limits as well as locomotor responses (like insect flight).
We work with local and international communities to develop research projects that will benefit the health and environment of those communities. So far we have partnered with Centro Educativo Pavarotti in San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala to investigate the effects of eutrophication on the invertebrate fauna. Future work will explore the effects of heavy metals on the physiology of aquatic invertebrates.