Species interactions, especially how closely interacting species influence one another’s evolution.
As an undergraduate I worked on whale lice (cyamids) and used their genetics to study Right Whale interactions.
For my Ph.D., I looked at the ecological and evolutionary context and consequences of parasitic and predatory insects whose ancestors were phytophagous, comparing and contrasting aphytophagous and phytophagous members of the butterfly family Lycaenidae (Lepidoptera), the blues, coppers and hairstreaks.
In particular, I used molecular characters to infer the phylogenies of several groups of lycaenid butterflies. I used these phylogenies as frameworks to investigate patterns of co-diversification between the butterflies and their associated ants, and to investigate how different life-histories were reflected in butterfly genetics. I also used stable isotopic analysis to determine the feeding habits of lycaenid butterflies.
In my postdoctoral research, I plan to use the mutualism between Carollia bats and their primary food source, Piper fruits, as a model system to study communication between species that have close ecological interactions. I will study their co-evolution by looking at the diversity in Piper fruit scent composition and behavioral preferences of Carollia bats.