My research interest includes the systematics and natural history of the ladybird beetles (Coccinellidae). With nearly 6,000 described species, Coccinellidae represents one of the major radiations within the superfamily Cucujoidea (34 families). Not surprisingly, a vast array of adaptations have occurred during the evolution of the family. In particular, much attention has been given to the evolution of dietary preference, which includes predation, phytophagy and mycophagy. The lack of phylogenetic studies in Coccinellidae using modern analytical tools constitutes a major limitation for any attempt to understand the evolution of the group.
My current research focuses on the higher-level phylogeny of Coccinellidae. My goals are to (1) test the monophyly of the family Coccinellidae and its subfamilies; (2) investigate the phylogenetic relationships among the subfamilies; (3) use phylogenetic hypotheses to examine ancestral food preference and trophic shifts within the family.
I have gathered molecular data from eight genes: 12S, 16S, 18S, 28S, COII, COII, Wingless and EF-1a. The taxonomic sampling currently represents 30 of the 41 recognized tribes of Coccinellidae. This work is being carried out in collaboration with the Whiting Lab at BYU.