Research

My research encompasses biodiversity, evolutionary ecology, systematics, integrated pest management and natural history.

I am keen on determining how and why species evolve and co-exist. I am also interested in understanding and proposing potential evolutionary relationships.

Systematics and Taxonomy

Chloropidae

It is no secret I have a soft spot for Diptera (flies). The family that I am most involved in working on are the Chloropidae (grass flies, frit flies). They are small, ranging from 1-5mm in size, colourful (lots of yellow-black patterns) and wonderfully diverse in the World (currently about ~3000 described species but probably many many more).

I started working on the Chloropidae during my undergraduate degree but continue to do generic revisions, describe species and work on determining evolutionary relationships (phylogenies) within the family.

Other families I work on are the Milichiidae (freeloading flies) and the Piophilidae (the so-called cheese flies). Both of these families have species with very interesting ecology, more interesting then their common names suggest.

Evolutionary Ecology

Asteraceae-leaf miner-parasitoid associations

Leaf miner

Leaf mining insects require a host plant to survive; they feed on the parenchyma cells of a plant leaf where they go undergo larval development.

During my postdoctoral studies in Dr. Stephen B. Heard’s lab, I tested whether the main drivers of leaf miners communities are evolutionary or ecological. I dove into answering whether leaf miners are associated host plants and whether they require a particular habitats.

Odonate-parasite associations

Damselflies are briefcases of parasites. They have a multitude of external and internal parasites. They do not get infected with all of them at once. Studies have especially focused on water mites and are slowly starting to look at gregarines.

My PhD work, at Carleton University under the supervision of Dr. Mark Forbes focused on understanding and explaining the variation of parasitism in closely related host species using the damselfly-water mite and damselfly-gregarine system as my models.

Integrated pest management

In this aspect of my work I work on developing sound biological control methods with the aim to maintain healthy environments and crops have good yields. I also develop identification tools (molecular and morphological), test degree day models. Most of my work is done in field crops, field vegetables and hazelnuts.

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