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.

  • Eric Tvedte
    PhD candidate (Anticipated graduation 2017)
    B.A. Biology, St. Olaf College

    My research is primarily focused on using the parasitic wasp genus Diachasma as a model for investigating the formation and evolutionary trajectories of new species. My primary project involves the characterization of 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 (i.e. meiosis genes) in Diachasma, as well as designing a bioinformatic pipeline for making genome-wide comparisons of molecular evolution in sexual and asexual wasps. Additionally, there is evidence that Diachasma may be currently experiencing divergence via cascading ecological speciation; ecological speciation in Rhagoletis pomonella flies appears to induce corresponding species formation in D. alloeum. Future projects may include the identification of candidate genes associated with divergence in these wasps.

  • 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.

  • Will Carr
    Undergraduate Research Assistant
    Major: Environmental Science