Research Technician

Victoria Ramsey

Project: .

Areas of interest:

Victoria Ramsey photo

Graduate Students

Matt Boot

Ph.D. Student

Project: Co-evolutionary dynamics in the mercenary-ant symbiosis. Coevolutionary biology tests evolutionary principles in reference to strong and persistent ecological interactions, potentially providing insight into how contextual variation influences a species’ evolutionary trajectory. To explore these eco-evolutionary issues, I am using a combination of population genomics, ecology, modeling, and evolutionary game theory. My goal is to understand how ecological context creates the conditions under which diversity is generated and maintained at a micro-evolutionary scale. I study how geographic variation and frequency-dependent selection influence adaptive dynamics between the fungus-growing ant Sericomyrmex amabilis and its two ant associates Megalomyrmex symmetochus and Gnamptogenys hartmani.

Areas of interest: Eco-evolutionary dynamics, species networks, population genomics, biological modeling

Matt Boot photo

Cody Cardenas

Master's Student

Project: Unearthing the overlooked fungus-growing ant parasitoid relationship. Every species on earth has a mutualistic or antagonistic symbiotic relationship shaping its natural history through coevolutionary processes. I explore the coevolution of an antagonistic symbiotic relationship by gathering natural history data and examining it in the context of landscape genetics. My goal is to identify factors that drive distribution and abundance of Trachymyrmex hosts and their wasp parasitoids. I study two fungus-growing ant Trachymyrmex species and their horde of undescribed Diapriidae parasitoid wasps.

Areas of interest: Taxonomy, myrmecology, tropical entomology, myrmecophiles, evolution

Cody Cardenas photo

Undergraduate Researchers/Assistants

Gina Gbur

Undergraduate Researcher
Gina Gbur photo

Amy Luo

Undergraduate Researcher

Project: Behavioral traits in Trachymyrmex species. I am broadly interested in social behavior and bioacoustics. My research is focused on behavior in fungus-growing ants. I am currently working on the behavior of Trachymyrmex zeteki and its cryptic sibling species, with the goal of delimiting cryptic species. I plan to use the skills I develop in future social and bioacoustics research in ornithology.

Areas of interest: behavioral ecology, social behavior, bioacoustics, ornithology

Amy Luo photo

Jaime J.M. Mah

Undergraduate Researcher

Project: Evolution of alarm behavior across the fungus-growing ants. Eusocial organisms use chemical communication for successful social interactions within groups. The function of ant semiochemicals can be understood through behavioral assays, as behavior is a measurable phenotypic trait. My goal is to understand the evolution of alarm communication in ants. I study the behavioral reaction of 13 fungus-growing ant species to their mandibular gland secretions.

Areas of interest: Chemical ecology, behavioral ecology, neurobiology, animal behavior

Jaime Mah photo

Andrew Mularo

Undergraduate Researcher

Project: Alkaloidal venom function in a new Panamanian ant species M. milenae. Whether looking at the microscopic or ecosystem level, organisms employ a variety of strategies in order to maximize their fitness. I am interested in the physiological and behavioral mechanisms utilized by tropical organisms that help maximize their survival. My project focuses on the antibacterial properties of the venom alkaloids in Megalomyrmex milenae ants, a recently discovered and understudied species from the Panamanian rainforest.

Areas of interest: Chemical ecology, molecular ecology, entomology, amphibian biology

Andrew Mularo photo

Morgan Oberweiser

Undergraduate Researcher

Project: Sensory ecology in symbioses. My aim is to understand species interactions and sensory ecology. I study the bioacoustic facets of mutualistic relationships between tropical ants and their symbionts. In the future I intend to apply these experiences to study social organization and communication patterns of bats.

Areas of interest: Behavioral ecology, social structure, bioacoustics, bat biology

Morgan Oberweiser photo

Darria Streeter

Undergraduate Researcher

Project: Antimicrobial properties of ant-derived semiochemicals. I am interested in how flora or fauna can benefit humans from a medical perspective. My project focuses on interactions between organisms in the fungus-growing ant species network. I study how antimicrobial compounds influence the growth of the fungus garden, entomopathogens, and bacteria in culture. My goal is to determine which microbes are helped or harmed by ant- and garden-derived natural products.

Areas of interest: antibiotics, traditional chinese medicine, pharmaceutical biology

Darria Streeter photo

Research Volunteers

Mazie Davis

Research Volunteer

Project: Context-dependent mutualist warns its host of its lethal potential. In long-term symbiotic interactions, interspecific communication can arise in order to enhance the fitness of both species. I am studying the signaling system between guest ant parasite Megalomyrmex symmetochus and their fungus-growing ant host, Sericomyrmex amabilis. My goal is to determine the signaling properties of gaster flagging behavior in M. symmetochus parasites. It is unclear whether this behavior is a multimodal threat signal or simply an act of aggression towards host ants.

Areas of interest: Behavioral ecology, communication, conservation

Mazie Davis photo