Research Interests

My research interests are in the broad area of physiology and behavior, primarily using insects as model organisms. Current projects (as of 2012):

Function of ventral eversible gland: Honors student Ashley Shaw and I have been  investigating velvetbeancaterpillars (Anticarsia gemmatalis) and other Noctuidae, exploring the function of a little-studied gland found on the ventral prothorax. Image at right shows the everted gland in fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda). This research poster presented by Ashley at the 2009 Bellarmine Undergraduate Research Symposium describes our latest findings.

Larval learning: Corn earworm (Helicoverpa zea) larvae was tested for memory formation and retention after conditioning with an aversive stimulus. Studies by biology honors student Chris Sims and me indicate that larvae learn to avoid certain tactile environmental cues associated with simulated predation.

Effects of melatonin: Biology student Ryan Stedwell and I explored whether exposure to melatonin impacts the larval life cycle of velvetbean caterpillars. Pilot studies suggest that ingestion of melatonin may retard larval growth, delay pupation, and increase mortality. See our research poster presented at the 2010 Bellarmine Undergraduate Research Symposium.

In the past, I have investigated the ovipositional physiology of mosquito disease vectors, house flies, and gypsy moths. Males of some medically important mosquito species produce a substance in the seminal fluid that, when transferred to females during mating, induces egg-laying and inhibits female receptivity to additional mating attempts.

Ryan Stedwell injecting melatonin into Manduca sexta, 2009.

Chris Sims working on first learning experiments in Helicoverpa zea, 2009.

Ashley Shaw preparing for experiment on A. gemmatalis, 2008.

Tova planting soybeans for velvetbean caterpillar research, May 2007.

A. gemmatalis on soybean leaflets