Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Anurag Agrawal is an evolutionary ecologist working on diverse species interactions, particularly chemically mediated coevolution between plants and their herbivorous insect pests. He uses natural history, field experiments, genetics, and comparative biology to test fundamental theories as well improve environmental and agricultural sustainability. Most recently he has focused on monarch butterflies and their milkweed hosts. Agrawal earned a B.A. in Biology and M.A. in Conservation Biology from the University of Pennsylvania (1994) and a PhD in Population Biology from the University of California at Davis (1999). Agrawal has received the Young Investigator and E.O. Wilson Awards from the American Society of Naturalists, Georg Mercer and R.H. Macarthur Awards from the Ecological Society of America, Founder’s Memorial Award from the Entomological Society of America, Silverstein-Simeone Award from the International Society of Chemical Ecology, and the David Starr Jordan Prize. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2021.
My research program addresses questions in the ecology and evolution of interactions between plants and animals. In particular, I focus on the generally antagonistic interactions between plants and insect herbivores and ultimately seek to understand the complexity of community-wide interactions. What ecological factors allow the coexistence of similar species? What evolutionary factors led to the diversification of species? In total, plants and insect herbivores comprise about one half of earth's macroscopic biodiversity and herbivory accounts for major losses in agriculture. Given that herbivory is the conduit through which most of plants' autotrophic energy is transmitted to the rest of the food web, the focus on plant-herbivore interactions is justifiably important. My approach to science in general involves 1) rigorous, manipulative field experiments to test for the importance of conceptually or theoretically developed interactions, 2) the search for novel interactions which may be pervasive in nature but have escaped our attention, and 3) a keen interest in teaching and mentoring students at all levels of education. My research is mostly conducted in New York field communities, although when appropriate I travel to other field sites (Costa Rica, Bahamas, Finland). During the colder months, my lab conducts more mechanistic experiments in glasshouses and growth chambers. We are currently focused on three major projects: 1) the community and evolutionary ecology of plant-herbivore relationships, 2) factors that make non-native plants successful invaders, and 3) novel opportunities for pest management of potatoes.
Awards & Honors
- Silverstein-Simeone Award 2018 International Society of Chemical Ecology
- Fellow of Ecological Society of America 2017 Ecological Society of America
- National Outdoor Book Award 2017 National Outdoor Book Award
- Silverstein-Simeone Award 2017 International Society of Chemical Ecology
- R.H. MacArthur Award 2016 Ecological Society of America
- Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science 2012 AAAS
- Sigma Xi 1996
- Phi Beta Kappa (elected) 1994
Ecology and the Environment (BioEE 1610), Field Ecology (BioEE 3611)
- Agrawal, A.A., A.P. Hastings, and J.L. Maron. 2021. Evolution and seed dormancy shape plant genotypic structure through a successional cycle. PNAS doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2026212118
- Elias, J.D. and A.A. Agrawal. 2021. A private channel of nitrogen alleviates interspecific competition for an annual legume. Ecology 102: e03449
- Brzozowski, L.J., D.C. Weber, A.K. Wallingford, M. Mazourek, and A.A. Agrawal. 2021. Tradeoffs and synergies in management of two co-occurring specialist squash pests. Journal of Pest Science: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10340-021-01379-y
- Agrawal, A.A. and X. Zhang. 2021. The evolution of coevolution in the study of species interactions. Evolution 75-7: 1594–1606.
- Tigreros, N. A.A. Agrawal, and J.S. Thaler. 20201. Genetic variation in parental effects contribute to the evolutionary potential of antipredator plasticity. American Naturalist 197:164–175.
- Agrawal, A.A., K. Böröczky, M. Haribal, A.P. Hastings, R.A. White, R-W Jiang, and C.
- Duplais. 2021. Cardenolides, toxicity and the costs of sequestration in the coevolutionary interaction between monarchs and milkweeds. PNAS 118: e2024463118.
- Agrawal, A.A. 2020. A scale-dependent framework for trade-offs, syndromes, and specialization in organismal biology (MacArthur Award paper). Ecology 101: e02924
- Karageorgi, M, S. Groen, F. Sumbul, J.N. Pelaez, K.I. Verster, J.M. Aguilar, A.P. Hastings, S.L. Bernstein, T. Matsunaga, M. Astourian, G. Guerra, F. Rico, S. Dobler, A.A. Agrawal, N.K. Whiteman. 2019. Genome editing retraces the evolution of toxin resistance in the monarch butterfly. Nature 574: 409–412.
- Agrawal, A.A. and H. Inamine. Mechanisms behind the monarch’s decline. Science 360:1294-1296.
- Agrawal, A.A. 2017. Monarchs and Milkweed: A Migrating Butterfly, A Poisonous Plant, and their Remarkable Story of Coevolution. Princeton University Press. 296pp
E425 Corson Hall
aa337 [at] cornell.edu
Anurag in the news
- Ecology and Evolutionary Biology