Lab Members

  • Andrew Forbes
    Associate Professor of Biology & Academic Coordinator of UI Environmental Science Program
    B.A. Biology, Colgate University (minor in Philosophy)
    Ph.D. Evolutionary Biology, University of Notre Dame
    (319) 335-3006

    My research interests revolve around the central question: why are insects so astoundingly diverse?  There are more species of insect on Earth than any other type of animal, and as strange as it is to say, we still don't have any good consensus as to how many insect species there actually are. Insects, particularly parasitic wasps, are small, often mophologically cryptic, and poorly studied compared with other animal taxa. I study the evolution, ecology, behavior, and taxonomy of many different insect species, with an eye to understanding the patterns and processes underlying their diversity.

  • Postdoctoral Scientist
    B.S. Science and Technology (Biology Option), Kean University
    M.A. Curriculum and Instruction, Kean University
    Ph.D. Biology, University of Kentucky

    I am broadly interested in understanding how history, geography, and ecology influence patterns of divergence within and between plant-feeding insect species. Here in the Forbes lab, I am working on a NSF Dimensions of Biodiversity project exploring Blepharoneura, a hyper-diverse Neotropical genus of fruit flies specializing on cucurbit plants, and their lethal Bellopius wasp parasitoids. Specifically, my research aims to understand how population structure and patterns of gene flow within and between fly species are influenced by interactions with their associated wasps, and vice versa. To do this, I will generate large datasets using restriction-associated DNA (RAD) sequencing, which we will use to 1) identify the population history within each fly/wasp species, 2) look for general drivers of population divergence within Blepharoneura and Bellopius, and 3) compare patterns of diversity in flies and wasps.

  • PhD candidate (Anticipated graduation 2018)
    B.A. Biology, St. Olaf College

    Research Interests: evolutionary genomics, genome assembly and annotation, bioinformatics

    My dissertation research utilizes the parasitic wasp genus Diachasma to investigate the formation and evolutionary trajectories of new species. A major objective is the characterization of genomic molecular evolution in Diachasma as a consequence of loss of sexual reproduction. I am evaluating the composition and evolution of genes important for sexual processes (e.g. meiosis genes) in Diachasma, as well as designing a bioinformatic pipeline for genome-wide comparisons of molecular evolution in sexual and asexual wasps. The production of genome assemblies will serve as important resources to study additional questions regarding wasp biology and natural history.

    In addition, I have an advisory role in the assembly and annotation of several earthworm genomes. Ongoing research includes the application of phylogenomics approaches to examine the evolutionary history of Annelida and identify potential targets for adaptive evolution in earthworms.

    Google Scholar Publications Link

  • PhD Student
    B.S. Biology, University of Iowa (minor in Dance)
    M.S. Biology, University of Iowa

    My projects focus broadly on how ecological interactions between species can drive the evolution of reproductive isolation and speciation. I study interactions between the specialist Sunflower Maggot Fly (genus Strauzia) and their host plant species (genus Helianthus and other Asteraceae). My primary project aims to evaluate the relative contributions of pre- and post-zygotic reproductive barriers to reproductive isolation between recently diverged lineages of Strauzia. This project carries the larger purpose of understanding patterns of ecological speciation across a continuum of divergence. In addition, I am working on several other projects that include completing a phylogeny of the genus Strauzia, measuring patterns of host plant use, and evaluating the evolutionary impacts of morphological differences between Strauzia species.

  • PhD Student (anticipated graduation: 2020)
    B.A. Biology, Albion College
  • MS Student

    My project is focused on the history of speciation of a genus of neotropical fruit flies (Blepharoneura) and the parasitic wasps that attack them. I am using Double Digest Restriction Associated DNA (ddRAD) sequencing to identify thousands of genetic markers that can be analyzed to find patterns of migration and gene flow in populations across South America. These markers can also be used to create fine-resolution phylogenetic trees for a more in-depth understanding of species relationships. My work is one piece of a collaborative National Science Foundation “Dimensions of Biodiversity” project, led by a team of researchers from several universities.

  • Undergraduate Researcher
    Biology Major (Comprehensive Track)

    Marc is part of the Strauzia (sunflower fly) project, and has been leading various studies of inter- and intra-specific variation, primarily having to do with morphology and body color.

  • Undergraduate Researcher
    Biology Major (Genetics and Biotechnology Track)
  • Undergraduate Researcher
    Environmental Sciences Major

    Sarah is working on an independent project investigating genetic variation and species interactions among woodland fungi.

  • Undergraduate Researcher
    Biology Major (Genetics and Biotechnology Track)
    Art Major (Ceramics)