We study how biotic and abiotic variability influence the ecology of plants and insects

In the Wetzel Lab, we do insect ecology using quantitative tools to meld field data with theory. Our research focuses on how biotic and abiotic variability influences insects and their interactions with plants and predators.

A recent profile of the lab by MSU Futures Magazine.

A profile of our project on how plant defense diversity could contribute to sustainable control of insect pests (scroll to bottom for a video).

Every organism grows and reproduces best under specific biological and environmental conditions. Yet a quick look outside reveals a world that is astoundingly variable, both in biological diversity and environmental heterogeneity. Organisms face massive fluctuations in key ecological factors like temperature, food quality, and predation, and they only rarely experience their optimal conditions. The Wetzel Lab studies how biological diversity and environmental variability influence the dynamics of insect herbivore populations and their interactions with plants and predators. We work in natural and agricultural ecosystems and strive to answer questions that have relevance for agricultural sustainability and responses to climate change. We place an emphasis on using mathematical and statistical modeling to link ecological processes and patterns across scales from individuals to communities.

The Wetzel Lab is in the Department of Entomology at Michigan State University. We’re part of the Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Behavior Program and affiliated with the Kellogg Biological Station. We spend lots of time thinking about science and science life with the Weber Lab in Plant Biology, with whom we run the MSU Plant–Arthropod Ecology & Evolution Group (affectionately known as PLARG), which includes members from 10+ labs across 4+ departments.


Wetzel Lab (most of us!) at MSU Kellogg Biological Station in summer 2018


Wetzel Lab and friend labs (Bradburd, Meek, and Weber labs) at a fall potluck.