Current Research

Updated: Mar. 5 , 2020

Current Research

I am currently posted at the Hufbauer lab in Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO. Our lab focuses on applied evolutionary ecology ( and I am working with Ruth Hufbauer along with my committee members below on Drosophila suzukii. My current projects focus on biological invasions and the evolutionary ecology of an invasive species. My expected graduation date is May 2020.

M.S. Ecology Committee Members:

  • Ruth Hufbauer, Professor, Department of BioAg. Sci. and Pest Management, CSU
  • Ian Pearse, Research Ecologist, USGS
  • Cameron Ghalambor, Professor, Department of Biology, CSU
  • Liba Pechjar, Associate Professor Dept. of Fish, Wildlife & Conservation Biology, CSU

Drosophila suzukii Projects

Background: Drosophila suzukii is an invasive vinegar fly and is a model organism for understanding the role phenotypic plasticity in facilitating invasion1. It was introduced to Hawai‘i from Asia in the 1980s2 and has since spread across North America and Europe3,4. It is a major agricultural pest5 as it has the ability to oviposit onto soft-skinned fruit6 causing the fruit to rot7.

1) The effects of invasive Drosophila suzukii on native plant and bird communities: Do birds avoid infested fruits?

Drosophila suzukii is a huge agricultural pest, which means most of the research has focused on its effect on industry. Although it is known to be present in natural systems, there has not been much research on how it alters the different communities it invades. Once D. suzukii has infested a fruit, it will cause the fruit to rapidly rot and possibliy reduce food availability for species that rely on it for nourishment, such as birds. My study will focus on American Robins (Turdus migratorius) and measure their ability to distinguish the difference between D. suzukii infested and non-infested fruits. In places like on the Big Island of Hawaii where D. suzukii is present, they are known to attack native berries such as the ʻŌhelo ʻai (Vaccinium reticulatum), which is a food source for the native birds they are reintrodcuing (ex ʻAlalā (Corvus hawaiiensis)). This study could be evidence of the possible ecological effects of D. suzukii invasion in natural systems.

2) The roles of adaptation and phenotypic plasticity in morphology and performance of an invasive species in a novel habitat.

In this era of biological invasions, translocation and climate change, understanding how organisms establish, adapt and invade new systems is a prime interest in evolutionary ecology. Phenotypic plasticity is when a genotype can produce multiple phenotypes in response to different environments and may be an important strategy in invasions. In a previous study on Hawaii Island with my NSF REU advisor Dr. Jonathan Koch, I observed that D. suzukii increases in size with elevation. As elevation increases, temperature decreases and this gradient is what likely drives differences in body size. I propose to collect flies from high and low elevation from Hawaii Island and rear flies in a reciprocal design at low and high temperatures (mimicking high and low elevation temperatures), then measure their size and performance. In the face of global change, understanding the mechanisms that allow species to establish in novel systems is important in creating methods of control and maintaining native ecosystems.

References:1Shearer et al., 2016. BMC Ecol, 16:11; 2Kaneshiro, 1983. In Proc Hawaiian Entomol Soc, 24:179; 3Hauser, 2011. Pest Manag Sci, 67:1352–1357; 4Calabria et al., 2012. J App Entomol, 136:139–147; 5Bolda et al., 2010. Agr Resource Econ Update, 13:5–8; 6Atallah et al., 2014. Proc R Soc Lond [Biol],281:20132840–20132840; 7Walsh et al., 2011. J Integr Pest Manag, 2:G1-G7


Koch, J.B., Dupuis, J.R., Jardeleza, M.K., Ouedraogo, N., Geib, S.M., Follett, P.A. and Price, D.K., 2020. Population genomic and phenotype diversity of invasive Drosophila suzukii in Hawai ‘i. Biological Invasions, pp.1-18.