This lab studies primarily the interactions between insect parasites and their hosts.
Most of our projects involve parasitic wasps (parasitoids) that develop as immatures in or on the bodies of other insects but that are free-living as adults. Parasitoid wasps are among the most species-rich group of organisms on earth.
One study area in the lab focuses on understanding how the host's immune system protects insects from parasitoid invasion and reciprocally, how parasitoids overcome host defenses. This includes the study of microbial symbionts like polydnaviruses that are carried by many parasitoids and that play a key role in suppressing the immune system of host insects.
In close collaboration with UGA colleague Mark Brown, we also study vector arthropods like mosquitoes that transmit human diseases. Our interest is primarily in how the mosquito immune system responds to invasion by different pathogens including the parasite that causes malaria in humans.
Another study area focuses on life history evolution and how parasitic lifestyles have affected developmental processes. We are particularly interested in polyembryonic parasitoids that exhibit many dramatic developmental adaptations including a sophisticated caste system that resembles in many ways the social systems of bees, ants and termites. <more>