Graduate Students

Antonio Alvarado

Research Interests: My undergraduate studies largely focused on how human behavior and cultural differences affect infectious disease transmission, illuminating how anthropology can explain the context for certain health behaviors. It wasn’t until interning at the NYC Department of Health, while studying how Culex pipiens mosquitoes evolved to inhabit in specific NYC sewers, that I discovered the complex connection between vector-borne diseases, insect vectors,  and human behavior. I am now pursuing an MS in Vector-Borne Disease Biology and working in the Harrington Lab to understand the ecology of disease vectors. I am interested in how humans shape pathogen behavior/evolution and how our behavior has contributed to the rise of emerging and re-emerging vector-borne diseases like Zika virus, Dengue virus, or even bubonic plague.

Matthew Barrett

Research Interests: In the last few months, I have found a real interest in host-behavior manipulation. Looking at the neuro-mechanisms behind behavioral changes sounds incredible. Also after spending time at the Cocha Cashu research station in Manu National Park, Peru, I have found interest in ecology such as how members of the same species interact and acquire resources.

Rekha Bhandari

Research Interests: I aspire to research on understanding the insect behavior integrating ecological, molecular, chemical ecological and physiological aspects of plant-insect interactions. Beyond behavioral studies, I am also inspired by the studies that focus on tritropic interactions among predators, pests and plants, and the habitat manipulations for integrated pest management. My goal is to understand the mechanistic and ecological understanding of insect-plant interaction that aid in developing Integrated Pest Management strategies for managing agricultural pests.

Hayden Bock

Research Interests: My research is mainly focused on urban environments and how they and the organisms they contain can be leveraged for basic ecological discovery. I am particularly interested in the spatial, structural, and socio-economic complexity found in urban environments and how those factors lead to changes in the biodiversity and functionality of soil food webs, especially among microarthropods and microorganisms. Through my research I hope to shed light on the controls of biodiversity in human-altered environments, and how we may harness that biodiversity to create more sustainable urban ecosystems. 

Kate Browning

Research Interests:  I am a PhD student in Dr. Brian Lazzaro's lab studying host-microbe interactions in Drosophila melanogaster. Currently, I am interested in the molecular mechanisms that are involved in mounting an immune response against bacterial pathogens as well as the crosstalk between different signalling pathways in the fly. While I am a molecular biologist by training, I am excited to be studying entomology and use cellular and tissue-specific findings as clues to how tradeoffs are made and how it affects the overall health and function of an organism.

Mark Buckner

Research Interests: My research interests relate to understanding how climate and environmental change influence species distributions. I use spatial modeling and open data to predict how the distributions of solitary bees may shift under future climate conditions and in human-altered landscapes. I am interested in evaluating how species respond to the changing environment and how climate-driven range shifts impact biodiversity and conservation.

Robin Chen

Research Interests: I am interested in insect-virus interactions. Transmission of arboviruses requires the infection of the midgut of the vector, dissemination of viruses into the hemocoel, and infection of the salivary gland. I study how arboviral proteins are trafficked in midgut and salivary gland epithelial cells of the model organism Drosophila melanogaster and the arbovirus vector Aedes aegypti in the laboratories of Pr. Nicolas Buchon and Pr. Gary Blissard. Understanding the mechanism of viral protein trafficking in insects could lead to the development of novel methods to reduce vector competence.

Chloe Cho

Research Interests:

Rey Cotto

Research Interests: I am pursuing an MS/PhD in Entomology with the purpose of contributing in our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of insect resistance under specific environment conditions, including their effects on ecological processes at the community and ecosystem. I would like to drive a project under the mentorship of Dr. Ping Wang with the purpose of studying insect resistance to pesticide and intoxication pathways in an attempt to improve the chances of survival of the plant, and contributing to the production of better products for our agricultural industry. The idea would be to focus on the evolution of pesticide resistance in insect populations with implication for the development of novel pest management strategies.

Andrea Darby

Research Interests: I am a PhD Candidate in Dr. Brian Lazzaro's lab. I graduated from the University of Nevada Las Vegas with my degree in Ecology and Evolutionary biology, where I worked with Dr. Allen Gibbs to understand the impact of the gut microbiome on desiccation tolerance in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. After graduation, I worked as an NIH post-baccalaureate scholar at the University of Kansas. Under the guidance of Dr. Rob Unckless, where I studied the evolutionary genetics of Drosophila immunity and tradeoffs in immune performance. In the Lazzaro Lab, we broadly study the genetic and environmental reasons why individuals are more susceptible to infection. As a PhD candidate, I specifically research the impact of nutrition on infection dynamics in fruit flies, particularly studying the genetic and physiological mechanisms by which dietary sugar shapes resistance and tolerance to infection. I am also investigating the role that insulin signaling has on immune performance in Drosophila especially in the context of dietary sugar. 

Julie Davis

Research Interests: "I am interested in the ecology of pollinators and herbivores in natural and agricultural ecosystems. My research explores the ecological dynamics between soil, plant, herbivore and pollinator communities. I am particularly interested in how land use practices alter these relationships, and consequently, pest control, pollination services and the pollinators themselves. Much of my work combines field, greenhouse, and lab studies with the tools of chemical and nutritional ecology to understand mechanisms of effect. Ultimately my goal is to provide information useful to biodiversity conservation while investigating some of the fascinating ecological stories that play out all around us."

Kaitlin Deutsch

Research Interests: I am broadly interested in the ecology and conservation of native pollinators. For my master’s dissertation at the University of Oxford, I investigated the prevalence of pathogens in syrphid flies. At Cornell, I would like to study the potential effects of disease, pesticide exposure, and climate change on the ability of native pollinators to fulfill critical pollination services. Under the supervision of Dr. Scott McArt, I hope to translate the scientific results into policy suggestions and guidelines.

Lilly Elliot

Research Interests:

Kara Fikrig

Research Interests: I studied ecology and evolutionary biology as an undergraduate, followed by a fifth year Masters of Public Health with a concentration in epidemiology of microbial diseases. I am interested in combining these two fields of study as they relate to Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. The complexity of the way in which the ecology of Ae. aegypti mosquitoes is intertwined with the social structure of humans is fascinating. Under the guidance of Professor Laura Harrington, I hope to investigate methods by which to harness the natural ecology and biology of these mosquitoes to control their population and ultimately reduce the burden of disease. 

Nathalia Florez

Research Interests: I am broadly interested in systematics, evolution, and biogeography, with a deep focus on native bees. Since my Bachelor's degree, I have worked with this fascinating group, studying the mutualistic interactions between bee and plant communities in a Dry Tropical Forest. For my MS I studied the taxonomic delimitation and systematics of a bee subgenus for the Neotropics. As a Ph.D. student, I expected to understand the specialist interactions between bees and plants under an evolutive perspective, considering which phenotypic traits allow these close interactions

Nicole Foley

Research Interests: From an early age Nicole knew she was passionate about human, animal, and environmental health yet it was not until she began her career at Western Carolina University that she discovered the concept of One Health. At WCU Nicole earned a B.S. in Environmental Health which exposed her to the multidisciplinary field of protecting and improving human health. Nicole's passion for vector borne diseases and how they play into this One Health triad began when she completed a summer internship with Forsyth County Public Health Department's vector control unit conducting mosquito surveillance and public service requests. Following this experience, Nicole began working with Dr. Brian Byrd in the Western Carolina University Vector-Borne and Infectious Disease laboratory. Nicole hopes to apply her skills in a way to help improve and facilitate vector control for rural areas similar to where she grew up. In her free time Nicole likes to go hiking, reading dystopian books, stargazing and hanging out with her cat!

Leland Graber

Research Interests: I’m principally interested in the interactions of social insects with microbial symbionts. I am curious to see how microbes, when associated with insect societies, impact the behavior and physiology of the individual insects, as well as the social behaviors of the entire society. I’m also interested in the role that microbial symbionts played in shaping the evolution of different social insect species.

Bretta Hixson

Research Interests: I am interested in studying major disease vectors, especially Aedes and Anopheles mosquitos, from the standpoint of cell and molecular biology.  I am applying to the Entomology Field because I want to cultivate broad expertise in insect physiology and phylogeny, and I am interested in pursuing projects that will translate previous work in Drosophila into studies of mosquitos.  If I am admitted to Cornell’s PhD program in entomology, I plan to work under the guidance of Dr. Buchon to adapt his FACS/transcriptomic system to study midgut biology and host/microbe interactions in Aedes mosquitos.

Chloe Jelley

Research Interests: I am interested in trait diversity in ants. Through my research I aim to examine how these traits have evolved over time across ant lineages via their biotic interactions within their given environments. I am especially interested in the role that various levels of aggression play in biotic interactions and how this behavioral trait may be manipulated by or selected for through mutualistic or parasitic relationships.

Ashley Jernigan

Research Interests: “I am interested in exploring how soil fauna can be managed to increase crop production while improving soil health. I hope to develop our understanding of the relationships between soil properties, mesofauna communities, and plant growth."

Britny Johnson

Research Interests: My research interests include vectors and vector-borne disease, molecular parasitology, and disease ecology. I’m particularly interested in how environmental changes influence vector competence and also how those changes influence the vectors immune response. I’m also interested in vector and parasite/host evolution.

Annette Kang

Research Interests: Insect sociality and communication, chemical ecology, and invasive ecology are my top three interests. I am interested in the underlying factors/mechanisms that drive sociality among insect populations and the different signals and interactions they share with other surrounding organisms (plants, fungi, other root herbivores and soil arthropods). I am also very curious about asking questions surrounding invasive entomology (basic natural history research, epidemiological impacts of introduced species, impacts on native landscapes of flora and fauna) in the chemical ecology context. In studying these specific relationships, I believe there is great potential for applied and interdisciplinary research opportunities.

Naoki Kihata

Research Interests:

Phoebe Koenig

Research Interests: Social insects organize through decentralized systems to accomplish colony-level goals. I study the individual behaviors and social communications that allow this organization. I am interested in how individuals in eusocial colonies balance self-interest with effort towards the colony, and how this may change across contexts. 

Lidia Komondy

Research Interests: My research interests involve the ecology and management of plant-pathogenic arthropods within vegetable cropping systems. Specifically, I am interested in programs that elucidate the most economically and ecologically sustainable management decisions in both conventional and organic agricultural programs. In my past research, I have focused on themes such as integrated pest management, biological control, genomics, and the epidemiology of insect-transmitted plant viruses.  At Cornell, my research interests include applied programs focused on building strong relationships with growers, stakeholders and faculty to implement changes to address the evolving needs of the agricultural industry while maintaining responsible ecological practices.

Sandra Lizarraga

Research Interests:

Timothy Luttermoser

Research Interests:  I am broadly interested in insect ecology and natural history, and particularly in community and landscape ecology. For my M.Sc. research at Purdue University, I focused on behavioral and chemical ecology of ants. Specifically, I studied odorous house ants, a native North American ant which has an extremely variable social structure which seems to relate in some way to its success in urban areas. For my PhD at Cornell, I would like to focus on community ecology in agroecosystems under the supervision of Dr. Katja Poveda. I am particularly interested in understanding how diversity and community composition relate to ecosystem services such as pest control by natural enemies.

Jamie Mangan

Research Interests: Jamie will join the lab in the fall of 2020. She is from Indiana and earned her BS in Human Biology from Indiana University in 2017. While at IU, she participated in One Health research of tourism and zoonoses in South Africa. After graduating from IU, she worked as the vector control and GIS coordinator at the Lake County Indiana Health Department. She is interested in a One Health approach to learning about disease vectors and transmission. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, cooking, and watching the Chicago Cubs.

Laura Martinez

Research Interests: I am a first year graduate student researching predator-prey interactions in applied systems. I am broadly interested in the non-consumptive effects of predators on their prey and hope to incorporate my interests to look at the potential synergistic effects of multiple variables such as other predators, chemical cues, and organic chemicals/pesticides. 

Alan Mata

Research Interests: My master's research focused on describing the biodiversity of Bombyliidae (Diptera: Bombyliidae) from Madagascar. I described seven new species of Exoprosopa from different parts of Madagascar. These specimens were found in the type collection at the Natural History Museum in London and incidentally were not described. As a Ph.D. student, I want to work on the systematics of the tribe Villini (Diptera: Bombyliidae: Anthracinae) and explore the insect-plant interactions within this group.

Michael Mueller

Research Interests: Primarily, the basic research questions I am interested in exploring can be summarized in a few simple questions: what makes organisms behave the way they do? What cues or inputs make an organism behave in a particular way? What are the trophic consequences of these behaviors and cues? How can we use these findings to benefit society? Currently I am exploring entomopathogenic nematode aggregation pheromones via bioassay in the Applied Chemical Ecology Technology lab here at Cornell. Interspecific dispersal compounds have already been shown to exist between entomopathogenic nematodes and free living bacteriovorus nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, this current research has the potential to discover an aggregation equivalent.

Tobias Mueller

Research Interests: I'm fascinated by plant insect interactions and especially how abiotic and biotic factors such as microbes influence those interactions and impact the community structure. I am also very interested in extension work and applied entomology.

Lidane Noronha

Research Interests: After working with the National Drosophila Species Stock Center, now here at Cornell, I am broadly interested in the evolution of feeding behaviours of various Drosophila species. Specifically, the genetic and environmental reasons behind their diverse diets through its impact on host fitness and immunity.

Kyla O'Hearn

Research Interests: My major research interests broadly pertain to the taxonomic and identifiable characteristics of
insects and arthropods. Particularly, I am interested in utilizing classification techniques in the
diagnosis and sustainable eradication of invasive insect species. In addition to conducting relevant
research, I hope to use my academic experience to educate the public through outreach and
volunteering opportunities.

Diana Obregon Corredor

Research Interests: I am broadly interested in contributing to dealing with the trade-off between pollinator conservation and pest management in agricultural settings applying concepts of agroecology, landscape ecology, and chemical ecology. In the Poveda Lab, I am studying how the loss of natural habitat and pesticides are affecting bees and pollination services. My fieldwork is developed in Colombia studying stingless bees in fruit and cattle ranching farms, and in the US, studying squash crops and their pollinators. Ultimately, my goal is to provide useful recommendations to sustainable agriculture for growers, policymakers, and stakeholders. 

Luke Pfannenstiel

Research Interests: I am interested in researching the genetics behind pesticide resistance in insects of agricultural importance. After taking a class on genetic editing my junior year of college, the use of CRISPR Cas9 as a means of pest control has also become an interest of mine. I have performed research on both field crop and stored product pests, and my goal is to use research to find pest control methods that circumvent genetic resistance in order to prevent loss of foodstuffs.

Joe Poggi

Research Interests: Joe Poggi joined the lab in the Summer of 2019 as a research technician. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Wildlife and Conservation Biology at the University of New Hampshire in 2018. At UNH, Joe studied the impacts of white nose syndrome on little brown bats and other disease ecology systems, which prompted his interest and fascination with disease systems. He is now working to complete his Master of Public Health entomology with research interests in integrated vector management as well as using modern mapping tools to enhance effectiveness of mosquito and tick vector control. He hopes to work in the Northeast as an entomologist after graduating. In his spare time he loves to play and record music with friends, and enjoying nature through hunting, fishing and foraging.

Augusto Rampasso

Research Interests: I am a graduate student from Brazil. I have been studying Neotropical
Drosophilidae ecology, species identification (based on external morphology and male terminalia
analysis) and taxonomy, as well as evolution in a Neartic Drosophila species. My research interests
are speciation, ecology, taxonomy, and phylogenetics, and Hawaiian Drosophilidae would be an
outstanding model for my studies.

Radhika Ravikumar

Research Interests: My primary research interests lie in the field of evolutionary biology. I am particularly interested in life history evolution and ecological immunology. I would like to study the mechanisms through which know modulators,  such as age, mating status, nutritional status, genetic architecture etc, affect immune function while also trying to identify novel modulators. Since my academic interests overlap with thowe of  Dr. Lazzaro's lab, I hope to work in his lab.

Sylvana Ross

Research Interests:

Leonardo Salgado

My research interests are focused on the ecology and management of insect pests of crops. I am particularly interested in working in a multifaceted approach to pest management research examining pest control, evaluating the factors that affect pests’ population and distribution dynamics, and assessing insecticide resistance. I am also interested in working directly with farmers and other stakeholders to conduct mission-oriented research.

Annika Salzberg

Research Interests:  As an agroecologist, my research centers around landscape ecology and the effect of landscape simplification on insect body size, abundance, and diversity - and subsequently how these factors affect crop damage and yields. I’m passionate about connecting growers and researchers to produce useful science, and love doing educational outreach for the general public!

Hayley Schroeder

Research Interests: : As an entomologist and ecologist, I am fascinated not only by the incredible diversity insects display in both morphology and natural history, but also by their ability to shape their environment through interactions with other organisms and each other. I am particularly interested in the outcome of these interactions in a world where both insects and the landscapes they occupy are changing rapidly due to human activity. In my dissertation work I am investigating how landscape mediated changes in insect herbivores, pollinators and natural enemies affect their interactions with non-crop plants coexisting in modified landscapes and the resulting consequences for plant evolution.

Juan Jose Silva Fernandez

Research Interests:  My fields of interest are biochemistry, molecular and cell biology, toxicology, and population genetics and I am applying to Cornell as a PhD student in Entomology. I am fascinated by the life cycle, behavior, and ecology of mosquitoes and other insects. More precisely, I would like to study resistance to insecticides because this is a field where I can evidence evolution happening every day to the mosquito population. Finally, I would like to drive a project under the direction of Dr. Scott: the idea would be to seek molecular markers involved in resistance to insecticides using A. aegypti as target organism.

Morgan Swoboda

Research Interests: I am broadly interested in the role that plant associated microbes play in plant defense against herbivores and if these microbes could also have a role in minimizing the impact of abiotic stresses. I am also interested in how soil characteristics may impact microbes and their performance. I am currently focused on entomopathogenic fungi (EPF) and their potential for use in deterring root-feeding herbivores in turfgrasses. 

Katherine Urban-Mead

Research Interests:  I am interested in the spatial ecology of beneficial insects in agricultural landscapes. For my undergraduate and M.Sc. research at Yale University, I focused on the interaction networks of wild bee communities in old-field meadows across human impact gradients. For my Ph.D., I would like to continue studying landscape scale beneficial insect dynamics and theory-driven conservation with Prof. Bryan Danforth. I am particularly interested in understanding early season forage provisioning and factors affecting nest site availability for wild bee pollinators in apple orchards.

Samantha Willden

Research Interests: My PhD program is centered on solving agricultural issues using sustainable practices and science education. My research interests include applied ecology and IPM, and more specifically biological control. My current projects include determining how UV selective tunnels affect strawberry production, ecosystem services and pest management, and evaluating how host plants influence dispersal ecology of predatory mites. Results of my research are intended to inform stakeholders on best practices for sustainable pest management and are disseminated using traditional extension outlets and educational videos. My extension programming and teaching style is informed by discipline-based education research, critical pedagogy and universal design for learning.