Lab Members

  • Associate Professor, Biology
    Director, 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
    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 Candidate
    B.A. Biology, Albion College

    Anna is interested in the evolutionary histories of various parasitoids, inquilines, and other associates of cynipid gall wasps found on North American oak trees. She has collected tens of thousands of insects from across the continental United States and is using a variety of molecular and ecological methods to understand their histories. The inquiline genera Synergus and Ceroptres are of particular interest.

  • MS Student
    BS, University of Illinois - Chicago

    Sofia is interested in the role of host in the evolution of Ormyrus parasitoid wasps that attack various oak gall wasps in North America. One species in particular, Ormyrus labotus, appears to attack a great diversity of different host galls, and thus is a putative generalist. Sofia is using ecology, morphology, and phylogeny to determine whether O. labotus is truly a single, oligophagous species or a complex of more specilized specialists. She is also sequencing thousands of Ultra-Conserved Element (UCE) loci to infer the first phylogeny of North American Ormyrus asscoiated with oak galls.

  • MS Student
    BS, Drake University
  • MS Student
    B.A., Environmental Sciences, University of Iowa

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