Mentors and Research Programs Accepting REU Students

Mentors are recruited throughout the winter and spring. Check back for updates. Not all mentors take REU participants in every year. Please feel free to request a mentor or project in your application. Following acceptance, mentor assignment is based on student requests, mentor requests, and what we feel will be good matches.

Evolution of Social Behavior - Edmund "Butch" Brodie III (B.F.D. Runk Professor of Biology, University of Virginia). Brodie’s current research at MLBS investigates the role of social interactions and age structure on the evolution of behavioral traits. Projects include direct observation of marked wild and experimental populations of forked fungus beetles. Recent REUs have explored environmental and social factors that influence social network structure, age effects on social behavior, and chemical communication within and between sexes.  

Ecological Genetics and Speciation in American Bellflower - Laura Galloway (Commonwealth Professor of Biology, University of Virginia). Galloway’s research addresses the interaction between mating system evolution and range expansion, fitness consequences of variation in polyploidy, and incipient speciation. Her lab’s long-term research program on Campanula americana uses manipulative field projects and evaluation of genetics in the lab. Possible REU projects include evaluation of morphological and developmental sources of autogamy, assessment of phenotypic selection on floral traits by different pollinator taxa, and estimation of mechanisms of prezygotic isolation.

Evolution and Ecology of Host-Parasite Interactions - Amanda Gibson (Assistant Professor of Biology, University of Virginia). Gibson's research focuses on coevolution and disease ecology in plant-parasitic nematodes (Meloidogyne) and their bacterial hyperparasites (Pasteuria). Elevation gradients near MLBS offer special opportunities for studying this system. REU projects can use field surveys to characterize the distribution and phenology of this interaction, and greenhouse experiments to test ecological and evolutionary hypotheses in this tritrophic interaction. 

Evolutionary Ecology of Mating Strategies - Charlotte Greene (PhD Candidate in Biology, University of Virginia). Green broadly studies how changes in the environment influence expression of male-male competitive and female choice behaviors, and how these behavioral changes shape sexual selection in natural populations. Her research at MLBS focuses on the Forked Fungus Beetle, conducting laboratory courtship assays, experiments in semi-natural enclosers, and wild observations. Possible REU projects include investigating the role of female age on female choice, how male chemical signals influence female choice, and the role of population age structure in shaping sexual selection on male traits. 

 Causes and Consequences of Reproductive Timing in Dark-eyed Juncos - Tim Greives (Associate Professor of Biology, North Dakota State University). Greives explores the mechanisms that lead to variation in seasonal reproductive in songbirds. Some junco females continue to lay eggs into mid-July, while others forego breeding attempts much earlier. REUs will conduct research to address variation in seasonal reproductive initiation and cessation, investigate mechanisms giving rise to observed variation, and collect data to address costs and benefits of these timing decisions.

Evolutionary Genomics of Sexual Dimorphism and Sexual Conflict - Katja Kasimatis (Assistant Professor of Biology, University of Virginia). The Kasimatis lab is bridging the genetic and genomic understanding of the Caenorhabditis nematode model system with the ecological relevance of selection to address when sexual conflict impacts evolution in nature. Possible REU projects include characterizing which substrates are preferred for mating, estimating population sex-ratios and how they change over time, and investigating associations between nematode strains and microbial communities in a sex-explicit manner.

Adaptive Plasticity, Timing, Population Divergence, and the Role of Hormones in Adaptation and Constraint in Dark-eyed Juncos - Ellen Ketterson (Distinguished Professor of Biology, Indiana University). Continuing 30 + years of work at MLBS, Ketterson and her collaborators study seasonality, physiology, gene expression, and mating preferences in conspecific populations that differ in whether or not they migrate. Possible REU projects include investigating whether climate warming affects first egg dates, whether females with greater metabolic capacity are the first to lay, and whether the hormone melatonin delays reproduction. 

Mosquito Thermal Biology and Interactions with Plants and Herpetofauna - Chloé Lahondère (Assistant Professor of Biochemistry, Virginia Tech). The Lahondère lab studies the thermal biology, eco-physiology and neuro-ethology of disease vector insects and ticks. She uses a collaborative, multidisciplinary and integrative approach, combining field work, behavioral analyses, molecular biology, chemical ecology and electrophysiology. REU students will explore the thermal biology of mosquitoes, including invasive species such as Aedes albopictus or Aedes japonicus, investigate the interactions between mosquitoes and frogs, snakes, and salamanders, and determine what plants mosquitoes use as a source of nectar.

Biodiversity, Systematics, and Ecology of the Mountain Lake Fauna - David McLeod (Associate Professor of Health Sciences, Mary Baldwin University). The McLeod lab investigates biodiversity, systematics, morphology, and ecology, especially in amphibians and reptiles. REU projects will take advantage of MLBS biological collections to provide training in collections management, and to support independent specimen-based research projects that explore patterns of evolution and biodiversity. 

Evolutionary Ecology Of Plant-Insect Interactions - Sarah McPeek (PhD Candidate in Biology, University of Virginia). Sarah’s work explores the evolutionary ecology of plant-insect interactions with a particular focus on how local ecology shapes the expression and evolution of nectar traits in plants and foraging behavior and population dynamics in pollinators. At MLBS, she focuses her research on the toxic wildflower, fly poison (Amianthium muscaetoxicum), and its pollinating beetle community. Some possible REU projects include investigating how beetles make foraging decisions within patches of plants, how neurotoxins in fly poison’s nectar affect beetle foraging behavior and physiology, and how beetle foraging behavior affects pollen transfer and receipt among plants in a patch.

Cooperation and Conflict in Social Amoebae - Elizabeth Ostrowski (Senior Lecturer in Zoology and Ecology, Massey University). Ostrowski’s research is focused on the evolution and maintenance of altruism in the social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum. Her research combines experimental evolution and behavioral studies of natural isolates. REUs can leverage an existing MLBS collection of more than 1,500 natural isolates to address a variety of questions, including: How do strains respond to the presence of other strains? And what factors promote or limit selfishness? 

Population Structure, Genetic Diversity, and Gene Flow in Timber Rattlesnakes - Drew Schield (Assistant Professor of Biology, University of Virginia). Schield studies the genetics of local populations to understand how denning behavior and proximity between den sites influences relatedness and genetic structure. Potential REU projects include quantifying environmental predictors of den site localities, estimating genetic relatedness within dens, and measuring connectivity among dens as a consequence of individual dispersal.

Maintenance of Microbiome Community Diversity in Wood Roaches- Erin Scott (PhD Candidate in Biology, University of Virginia). Scott’s work explores the mechanisms through which a diverse community of protists and bacteria persist in the hindgut of Cryptocercus puntulatus, a sub-social, long-lived species of wood roach. She is currently most interested in how different roach diets affect protist communities and how biparental transmission of the microbiome maintains microbiome diversity. Possible REU projects include investigating host dispersal mechanisms, mate choice, habitat choice, population genetics, and host genotype in relation to microbiome community structure.  

Behavioral Ecology of Forked Fungus Beetle Aggression - Clara Stahlmann Roeder (PhD Candidate in Biology, University of Virginia). Clara’s work explores the evolution of social behavior with a particular focus on how lifetime social experience and intrinsic factors of aging shape male-male competitive behavior. At MLBS, she focuses her research on forked fungus beetles (Bolitotherus cornutus) and winner-loser effects, conducting laboratory-based behavioral assays, mesocosm experiments, and some observation of natural populations to determine how individuals are perceiving and responding to their social environment. Possible REU projects may include investigating how winning or losing a fight influences an individual's future movement and dispersal, how individuals from more and less connected social environments respond to a contest, whether beetles prefer or avoid the scent of fighting males, and characterizing aggressive behavior and winner-loser effect within natural populations.

Evolutionary Ecology of Plant-Microbe Interactions - Corlett Wood (Assistant Professor of Biology, University of Pennsylvania). Wood studies the ecology and evolution of interactions between plants and microbes. Her lab focuses on Medicago lupulina and the microorganisms that live on its roots. Past undergraduate projects have explored how herbivores influence plant-microbe interactions; whether intact soil microbiomes protect plants from parasite infection; and how mutualistic microbes influence resource-related traits in their hosts. Future REU projects will pair surveys of wild plant and microbe populations in and around MLBS with manipulative experiments that focus on plant traits that are important in species interactions.