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 and Weber Labs)

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

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

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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. Scholar profile

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. 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).

Google Scholar profile

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

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.


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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 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!