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, Evolutionary Biology, and Behavior graduate program and one in the Department of Entomology, and by working to enhance and modernize the quantitative component of biology curricula.
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.
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.
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
My research interests focus on how the environmental consequences of anthropogenic activity cause shifts in the delivery of ecosystem services that benefit human well-being. I recently earned my B.S. from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA (go Owls!). Previously, I studied shifts in ecosystem function across an urbanization gradient in southeastern Pennsylvania and the amphibian diversification in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. In the Wetzel Lab, I will study how changes in climate induce changes in the plant communities that support habitat and other resources for beneficial insects and what these changes mean for future ecosystem sustainability. While earning my PhD, I also hope to understand how we can make science accessible and attractive to the masses.
Kayleigh C. Hauri, MS student
I am interested in food webs and predator-prey interactions, especially in agricultural systems. Before joining the Wetzel lab I worked on a variety of projects including the effects of disturbance on arthropod food web structure, biocontrol in wheat-stem sawfly, and the effects of pesticides on monarch butterfly development. I am excited to begin my Master’s and combine these interests for my own project.
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.
Emily Mall, undergraduate researcher
I am currently a junior studying Zoology and Public Policy, while participating on Michigan State University’s Women’s Varsity Crew. I am interested in wildlife biology research and conservation policy. I am passionate about applying knowledge gained from research into policy, as a way to positively impact the present and future inhabitants of the world. I hope to focus on population interactions and environmental adaptations.
Annie Levardsen, undergraduate researcher
I am a sophomore Horticulture student at MSU, and I am interested in sustainable agriculture and agroecology. When I’m not studying I enjoy visiting the MSU Bug House and Rosebud the tarantula, pictured here.
Haley Dole, undergraduate researcher
I am a Michigan State University senior majoring 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.
Anne Benson, undergraduate researcher
I am a senior Biology major at Middlebury College in Vermont. In my final undergraduate year, I look forward to continuing studying community ecology from a variety of angles while always saving time for Quidditch practices and exploring forests with friends. My primary interests lie in agroecology, climate change biology, and linking science with social justice. I am so grateful to be spending this field season with the Wetzel lab, learning from the very best!
Sydney Jackson, undergraduate researcher
I am about to enter into my senior year of undergraduate school at Austin College in Sherman, Texas, where I am working towards attaining a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies. I am also completing a double minor in English and Chinese. My prior research experience involves studying how trophic cascades impact plants and insects and how that ultimately impacts management of prairie restoration projects. This summer I am working with Dr. Moria Robinson on studying subindividual variability of traits in domesticated alfalfa plants and comparing that to traits in wild alfalfa plants. I hope in the future to continue studying how plants and insects interact and impact one another. Outside of the lab I love to go on hikes with a hammock and finding a good spot to hang out at with a good book.
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.
[Your smiling face here]
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 the lab! page for more information and email me if you’re interested (firstname.lastname@example.org). I take MS and PhD students through the Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Behavior Program and the Department of Entomology, meaning students graduate with a dual degree in both subjects.