Dr. William C. Wetzel, principal investigator
I am a population and community ecologist interested in how biological diversity and environmental variability influence plants and insects in natural and agricultural ecosystems. My research links ecological patterns at the scale of populations and communities with processes at the level of individual organisms. I do this by drawing on diverse disciplines, including plant chemistry, animal physiology and behavior, and population and community dynamics, and by using mathematical and statistical modeling to link theory, laboratory studies, and field data. I am also dedicated to helping students in the biological sciences develop their abilities to think quantitatively about the natural world using the language of math and statistics. I do this by teaching two quantitative ecology & evolution courses, one in the Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior graduate program and one in the Department of Entomology, and by working to enhance and modernize the quantitative component of biology curricula.
CV • Google Scholar profile • Departmental profile
Email: email@example.com • Twitter: @wcwetzel
Profile in MSU Futures Magazine
Dr. Andrea Glassmire, postdoctoral fellow
My research is greatly inspired by Thompson’s Geographic Mosaic Hypothesis to understand the defensive nature of secondary metabolites on the evolution, physiology, and diversity of specialist herbivores and their associated parasitoids. Population variability changes across the geographic landscape which inherently influences associated interactions. My goal is to investigate what causes phytochemical variation and how that influences the performance and dispersal of herbivores and associated natural enemies.
https://aglassmire.wordpress.com • Google Scholar profile
Dr. Moria Robinson, postdoctoral fellow
I am interested in all interactions between plants, herbivorous insects, and their predators/parasitoids. I get particularly excited about what might generate variation in tri-trophic interactions in nature, from the perspective of individual trophic chains as well as multi-species ecological networks. My prior research focused on how different soil types can alter plant resistance, and ramify to change herbivore assemblage size, diversity, food web structure. For my post-doc in the Wetzel lab, I will be taking a closer look at an under-appreciated, yet ubiquitous plant characteristic: sub-individual trait variability. I will be asking how variation in nutritive and defensive traits in space (across modular plant tissues) and in time (through plant ontogeny) within individual plants influences insect herbivore performance. I will also ask whether the process of plant domestication has systematically reduced this variation, altering susceptibility of crop plants to pest herbivores within agricultural systems. When I am not in the field or lab I enjoy walking with my pup, making and eating good food, and drinking a good sour beer with kindred spirits.
https://www.moriarobinson.com • Google Scholar profile
Dr. Olivia Cope, postdoctoral fellow
My research focuses on how and why plant phenotypes vary within species, and the consequences of that variation at higher trophic levels. In particular, I am interested in mechanisms of population-level variation in plant defense traits and in plant ontogeny as an important axis of trait diversity across scales. For my NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Wetzel lab, I will be working with common milkweed and its insect herbivores. I will investigate how climate and genetic variation interact with plant ontogeny to shape milkweed trait diversity and associated insect communities.
Luke N. Zehr, lab manager
I recently earned a M.S. in entomology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I am delighted to join the Wetzel Lab, where I’ll get to apply and deepen my broad interests in plant-insect interactions. I am specifically interested in behavioral adaptations of herbivorous insects that may have adaptive functions in foraging, and have begun exploring nocturnal herbivory as one potential mechanism.
Elizeth Cinto Mejia, PhD student
I am interested in the structure of ecological communities, and how natural and anthropogenic factors can alter food webs. I recently graduated from Boise State University where I earned my M.S. In the last few years, I’ve focused on the impacts of noise from oil and gas development on arthropod and bird communities, and the cascading effects on sagebrush physiology. While most of my background is with vertebrates, I am very excited to join the Wetzel lab and learn more about plant-insect interactions to answer applied and basic questions.
Dan Turner, PhD student
I study how biogeographic variation, temporal dynamics, and genetic diversity influence interactions between plants and insects. By employing meta-analysis methods, field experiments with the Solidago-herbivore system, and statistical models, I seek to understand how diversity across temporal scales affects community ecology. I am always looking for novel ways to apply concepts in data science across disciplines, like clearly and inclusively visualizing data for non-academic stakeholders. Recently, I was awarded the Fulbright Open Research Grant to Brazil for 2020-2021 to study plant-insect interactions at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais with Dr. Tatiana Cornelissen. Out of the lab and field, I spend time playing the clarinet, walking around Michigan’s Capital City, and reading the writings of some of my favorite contemporary authors, like Jia Tolentino, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Tommy Orange.
Josh Snook, MS student
I have always been intrigued by the complexity of ecosystems and the relationship between biotic and abiotic components. For my undergraduate thesis I documented the effects of coniferous canopy cover on abiotic variables such as temperature, wind-speed, snow depth, and sunlight in relation to wintering white-tailed deer in the Adirondacks of New York state. I have since worked in multiple conservation-oriented positions as a technician and group leader on projects involving forest management, urban tree management, endangered salmonids, Harlequin duck breeding surveys, urban Red-tailed hawks, Golden Eagle banding, and Sage grouse habitat restoration. My interests in the interaction between plants and animals has led me to pursue a master’s degree in entomology and ecology, evolutionary biology, and behavior. I am currently studying the effects of heat waves on the interaction and development of Potato plants and the Colorado Potato Beetle.
Haley Dole, research technician
I recently graduate from Michigan State University in Environmental Biology/Zoology. During my time at Michigan State, I have researched the effects of climate change on red-backed salamanders and studied tuatara behavior abroad in New Zealand. Now, while chasing down Tetraopes in the Wetzel lab, I am learning about milkweed herbivory, plant defense mechanisms, and the effects of heat stress on plant and insect interactions. I am continuously inspired by the creative minds in the Wetzel Lab and plan to pursue graduate school to continue research in ecology.
Minali Bhatt, undergraduate researcher
I am interested in plant-arthropod interactions and non-native/invasive species, particularly the relationships between native and invasive species, as well as exploring how invasive species affect ecological networks in their native versus exotic environment. I would like to pursue research on forest entomology of invasive species, particularly invasive beetles, and their effects on forest networks. I am currently assisting on Dr. Andrea Glassmire’s projects relating to chemical ecology of tomato plants and their effects on Manduca moth oviposition. After graduating from MSU, I will be pursuing a career in academia with a similar focus to my undergraduate career. I hope to diversify my research portfolio as well as explore fields outside of entomology, and plant biology. Major: Lyman Briggs, Environmental Biology/Plant Biology; Lyman Briggs, Entomology
Brendan Randall, undergraduate researcher
I am a senior at Michigan State University majoring in Environmental Studies & Sustainability, and I am starting as a PhD student at the University of Maryland in Fall 2021. My research interests focus on how diversity affects plant and insect community dynamics across various spatial scales. I am also interested in pursuing questions that seek to understand the abiotic factors that induce cannibalism in a generalist agricultural pest, the cabbage looper (Trichoplusia ni). I plan to utilize my incredible undergraduate experience in the Wetzel lab by attending graduate school studying agroecology. Outside of the lab, I enjoy hiking, kayaking, and being the keeper/coach of the MSU Travel Quidditch Team.
Michael Kalwajtys, undergraduate researcher
I am a junior at MSU and my major is Entomology. I am interested in learning more about plant-insect interactions as well as the effects of climate change on insect populations. I worked as a volunteer collections assistant for the Cook County Forest Preserve in Illinois where I reared Monarch caterpillars and assisted with surveys of dragonfly and damselfly species. In the Wetzel Lab I have worked with Dr. Andrea Glassmire, assisting with identifying insects and taking note of their functional guilds. I plan on attending graduate school, and I am exploring career options in academia as well as government. As for hobbies, I enjoy video games, hiking, reading, cooking, and music. My favorite band is Pearl Jam.
I’m interested in the ecology of sandy habitats. My work combines immersive observation with a macro-scale, comparative approach that compares sandy habitats in natural and urban ecosystems. I have developed a new technique for describing the physical structure of sandy environments by the amount of sand, measured in kg, that will stick to a sun-screened face. Sleeping is boring, so I avoid it when possible. I’ll sleep after I’m finished figuring out how the world works.
My work focuses broadly on cephalopod ecology. I have recently uncovered a new species of cephalophagous cephalopod and am working on understanding its trophic ecology. When I’m not figuring out how the world works, I’m drinking milk—lots of it—constantly.
My interests include fieldwork, smelling all the things, the ecology of small mammals, and running in circles and biting turf. I sleep as much as possible unless I’m in the field.
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Are you interested in the ecology of plants and insects? Are you interested in how biological diversity or environmental variability influences the interactions among plants, insect herbivores, and insect predators? Do you want to learn to combine ecological field studies with modern quantitative modeling techniques? If so, the Wetzel Lab may be the place for you. Please read the Join us! page for more information and email me if you’re interested (firstname.lastname@example.org). I can take MS and PhD students through the Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Behavior Program, the Department of Entomology, and the Department of Integrative Biology.