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: • Twitter: @wcwetzel
Profile in MSU Futures Magazine

Dr. Nayeli Carvajal, postdoctoral scientist

I received my PhD in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of California, Irvine where I studied the effects of climate change on insect-plant interactions. My previous research focused on how inter- and intra-specific variation in hostplant’s traits (i.e., nutrients, direct and indirect defenses, etc.) mediate herbivore response to climate change from a bottom-up (hostplant to herbivore) and top-down (predator to herbivore) perspectives. For my postdoctoral research at the Wetzel Lab, I will be studying the effects of heatwaves in the potato agricultural system. I am particularly interested in exploring how the timing of heatwaves alters plant’s chemistry and the interactions with herbivores and their natural enemies. • Google Scholar profile

Dr. Daniel Anstett, postdoctoral scientist (co-sponsored with the Lowry Lab)

My research focuses on evolutionary ecology across climatic gradients. I study the impacts of climate change on adaptation to drought in scarlet monkeyflower across California and Oregon. I quantify evolution in phenotypic traits like phenology and as well as the landscape genomics of markers associated with temperature and precipitation. I also study latitudinal and climatic gradients in herbivory and plant defense, focusing on testing biogeographic hypotheses on the strength of species interactions. In my upcoming research as part of the Plant Resilience Institute Fellowship, I plan to study the impact of climate change on gradients in plant defense, use landscape genomics to inform assisted migration, and study the genetic basis of adaptations to climate change. • Google Scholar profile

Dr. Xosé López Goldar, postdoctoral scientist

My research was greatly inspired by P. Coley’s Resource Availability Hypothesis, from which I became really interested in the extent to which variation in plant traits are associated to environmental gradients. Specifically, I’m excited about how evolution of plant defense is shaped by the concerted action of herbivores, pollinators and abiotic factors, which often vary in space and time. I associate concepts and theory of plant chemistry to animal physiology and behavior, and how their interactions are shaped by the abiotic conditions, aiming to extend our understanding of population and community ecology by applying integrative quantitative approximations and statistical modelling. My research questions address multiple facets of plant defense (e.g., induced defense, chemical diversity, defense tradeoffs) and their interactions with the biotic and abiotic components (e.g. herbivore and pollinator ecology, plant-insect specialization, resource gradients) from intraplant variability to patterns of local adaptation of populations. Scholar profile

Michael Kalwajtys, lab manager

I am a recent MSU alum with a B.S. in entomology, and I’ve been working with the Wetzel lab on multiple projects since early 2020. My colleagues continue to teach me so many interesting things about ecology! I’ve enjoyed learning about the effects of extreme heat on potato agricultural systems as well as milkweed systems. I am also excited to keep working on the HerbVar network to quantify variability in herbivory. I’m hoping to diversify my skill set and learn even more about plant-insect interactions. I am exploring career options in multiple fields, and I hope to attend graduate school in the near future!

Nicole Wonderlin, PhD student

I am broadly interested in landscape and community ecology, pollination biology, and how urbanization affects these processes. My thesis work is centered around urban community gardens and their capacity to foster diverse insect communities in disturbed urban spaces. I am particularly interested in how pollinators use these habitats, with an emphasis on nocturnal pollinators like moths, which are particularly affected by urbanization.
https://nicolewonderlin.weebly.comGoogle Scholar profile

Vincent Pan, PhD student

I am broadly interested in plant-insect interactions, but especially the hidden and bizarre natural histories of plant defense and herbivore offense. I am excited to join the Wetzel lab where I will be studying the drivers and consequences of variability in plant qualities, herbivory loads, and herbivore experiences. I am also interested in doing fun side projects that explore the ecology of cool insects which I am fond of (generally gallers and leaf miners).
https://vsbpan.github.ioGoogle Scholar profile

Caz Schwennesen, undergraduate researcher

I am a third year Environmental Biology: Plant Biology major through Lyman-Briggs and I am minoring in Science, Technology, the Environment, and Public Policy through James Madison College. I have always had a love for plants, ecology, and insects.


Alyssa Mollema, undergraduate researcher

I am a junior majoring in Environmental Biology/ Plant Biology with minors in Entomology and Environmental Studies and Sustainability. I love fieldwork and getting my hands dirty! I am planning on pursuing a career in research and am looking to explore my interests. I’m currently enjoying plant and insect interactions.



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.


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My interests include fieldwork, smelling all the things, the ecology of small mammals, and running in circles and biting plants. I sleep as much as possible unless I’m in the field. I love all my friends in the Lab!

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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 ( 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.

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Wetzel Lab ski trip!