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People of the SI AntLab

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AntLab Alumni


Ted Schultz   Ted R . Schultz, Principal Investigator

I am driven by strong interests in the evolution and systematics of ants, especially the fungus-growing ants (Myrmicinae: Attini), the historical ecology and evolution of the fungus-growing behavior, the theory and methodology of phylogenetic analysis, including Bayesian statistical approaches and the reconstruction of ancestral character states, and quantitative methods for assessing ant biodiversity. more...
Eugenia Okonski   Eugenia M. Okonski, Museum Specialist

I keep the Smithsonian AntLab organized and running by carrying out a broad range of research- and collections-related activities. These include curating the ant collection, databasing our traditional and cryo-stored collections, preparing museum specimens, maintaining living colonies of fungus-growing ants, creating extended-focus images of ant specimens, handling loan transactions, and hosting visitors.
Mike Lloyd  

Mike Lloyd, Molecular Laboratory Technician

My duties include providing technical support for molecular genetics research and collections in the department and in the Laboratories of Analytical Biology. I work with individual researchers on multiple projects involving genetic material from a wide diversity of insects and non-insect terrestrial arthropods. more...


Bernice DeMarco  

Bernice DeMarco, SI Postdoctoral Research Fellow

I am interested in evolution and systematics of ants as well as their behavior and morphology. I am focused on the genera Aphaenogaster and Novomessor. As a PhD student, I used morphology combined with molecular data from five genes (CO1, CAD, EF1αF2, LWR and Wingless) to reconstruct a phylogeny for 44 Aphaenogaster and outgroup species.  Most taxa were resolved, but some species in the A. rudis complex are still unresolved. more...

Fred Larabee  

Fred Larabee, Peter Buck Postdoctoral Research Fellow

I am researching the evolution and functional morphology of the trap-jaw ant genera Anochetus and Odontomachus. The mandibles of these ants snap shut at some of the fastest speeds ever recorded for an animal movement and are used for prey capture, nest defense, and can even be snapped against the ground to escape from predators. I am using phylogenetic comparative methods to understand how the trap-jaw morphology has evolved and how it has affected patterns of species diversity in this group. more...


Gabi Camacho  

Gabi Camacho, Peter Buck Predoctoral Research Fellow

The main focus of my work is to understand the diversity and evolution of ants in the Neotropics, in the taxonomic and phylogenetic aspects. Currently, I’m studying the ant subfamilies Ectatomminae and Heteroponerinae, which includes 7 genera ...more

Rick Gawne  

Rick Gawne, Visiting Graduate Research Fellow,
Duke University, Center for the Philosophy of Biology




Leeanne Alonso  

Leeanne E. Alonso, Vice President & Director,
Rapid Assessment Program, Conservation International

My current research focuses on assessing ant diversity and protecting ants and their habitats. I co-edited, with Ted Schultz and others, Ants: Standard Methods for Measuring and Monitoring Biodiversity, which has become the standard for sampling and monitoring ants. I am involved in teaching the annual “Ant Course” and my newest project is writing a field guide to the Ants of Eastern North America with the aim of getting people to appreciate how much ants do for us every day! 

Bonnie Blaimer  

Bonnie Blaimer,
Assistant Professor, North Carolina State University

My research compares the phylogenetic structure of canopy and leaf litter ant communities in two forest habitat types (humid vs dry) in Madagascar, in order to infer the environmental and biological processes responsible for their assembly. I am particularly interested in whether canopy and leaf litter ant communities differ in phylogenetic diversity, whether they show the imprint of being modeled by different factors, and whether these patterns deviate between forest types.

Michael Branstetter  

Michael Branstetter,
Assistant Professor, University of Utah

My research focuses on the systematics and evolution of ants, with an emphasis on species and lineages that occuppy the Neotropical region. Using both morpholgical and molecular data, I aim to 1) discover and describe new ant species, 2) improve ant classification so that groups are monophyletic and diagnosable, 3) infer the phylogenetic relationships among ant species and higher taxa, and 4) use ant phylogenies to understand the evolutionary and biogeographic history of select ant lineages. more...

Dietrich Gotzek  

Dietrich Gotzek, UIUC Research Associate

I’m broadly interested in patterns and processes of speciation in ants. Currently, I’m using a population genomic approach to understand the factors driving evolutionary radiation of fire ants (Solenopsis geminata species group). This approach allow us to both delimit species and provide a comparative framework to understand the evolution of various character traits, e.g., worker polymorphism, invasiveness, or social behavior. I’m also studying the molecular evolution of the genes underlying an important polymorphism in social organization (i.e. queen number) in a group of closely related fire ant species.

Ana Jesovnik   Ana Ješovnik, SI AntLab Research Associate
Current projects include:
  • Evolution of fungus-farming (attine) ants, especially genus Sericomyrmex.
  • Analysis of the chemical composition and biological function of a white, crystal-like layer that covers the bodies of Sericomyrmex workers and queens.
  • Biodiversity, ecology and conservation of Croatian ant fauna, with Croatian Myrmecological society.
  • Curation and data basing of Croatian Myrmecological Society ant collection.
  • more...
Dan Kjar   Daniel S. Kjar, Assistant Professor of Biology,
Elmira College

My research is focused on the ecolory of ants and sampling methods. I am particularly interested in how environmental changes affect ant populations, distribution, and diversity. Ants are important ecosystem engineers and changes to the abundance or species composition may have far-reaching implications for many arthropod and plant communities. more....
John S. LaPolla   John S. LaPolla, Assistant Professor of Biology, Towson University

My interests lie in revisionary systematics, biotic surveys, and phylogenetics of ants. My systematics related work focuses on the second largest subfamily of ants, the Formicinae, which include some of the most behaviorally and ecologically interesting ant species. I am also interested in developing techniques for sampling ants in different habitats around the world. I have conducted biotic surveys across the Guiana Shield in order to understand patterns of species diversity across this fascinating area.

Natasha J. Mehdiabadi   Natasha J. Mehdiabadi, Research Associate, Smithsonian Institution & University of Maryland

My research program on the evolution of cooperation spans multiple levels of analysis (field work to molecular work), a range of symbiotic interactions (from parasitism to mutualism), and a diversity of systems (social insects and microbes).
Mark W. Moffett  

Mark W. Moffett
Research Associate, Smithsonian Institution

Having published Adventures Among Ants with the University of Caifornia Press (2010), I'm looking at aggressive behavior among ants in general, including how it changes with colony population size.  I'm also writing reviews about group identity and how it bears on the concept of the superorganism and about Argentine ant supercolonies. In addition to ant research, I continue to do projects on forest canopy biology, as well as to write and photograph articles on ants and other topics for the National Geographic Magazine.

Christian Rabeling   Christian Rabeling, Assistant Professor, Arizona State University, Tempe

My research integrates evolutionary biology, genetics, taxonomy, and natural history studies. I am particularly interested in understanding how social parasitism evolved and how this change in social organization contributes to speciation. To explore this question, I am combining molecular phylogenetic, population genetic and genomic approaches. Integral to my research are fieldwork and in-depth natural history studies, which often lead to new discoveries that are further explored in the laboratory.

Scott E. Solomon   Scott E. Solomon
Instructor, Dept of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Rice University

I am generally interested in how evolutionary and ecological processes produce patterns in geographical space, a field known as biogeography. I use ants as a model system, which are useful because they are widespread and abundant, and because ant species diversity is considered to be a good indicator of diversity in other groups. more....

Jeffrey Sosa-Calvo   Jeffrey Sosa-Calvo, Postdoctoral Research Fellow,
Arizona State University

My main interests are the systematics, behavior, and evolutionary biology of insects, especially ants (Formicidae) and parasitic wasps (Scoliidae). I am focused on conducting the systematic revision of the primitive non-leaf-cutting fungus-growing ant genus Myrmicocrypta, and the construction of coevolutionary hypotheses including the ants and their symbionts (fungal cultivars, Escovopsis weed molds, & Pseudonocardia, antibiotic producing bacterial mutualism). more...

Emeritus AntLab Technicians


Nor Farida Dahlan

Matt Kweskin Hong Zhao  
  Faridah Dahlan Matt Kweskin Hong Zhao  

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