Research

Our major areas of research are:

Interactions between Drosophila and their microbiota ... more

The gut microbiota of Drosophila is of low diversity but variable.  Elimination of the microorganisms has multiple impacts on Drosophila function.  How do the interactions among the composition and activities of the microorganisms, diet and genetically-determined traits of the host shape the nutritional and immunological status of the host?  What are the implications of these interactions on the health and fitness of Drosophila and, by extension, animals in general?  

The association between plant sap feeding insects and their intracellular symbionts ... more

These insects obtain essential amino acids from their symbiotic bacteria, enabling them to live on plant phloem or xylem sap, diets grossly deficient in essential amino acids.  How does the insect host regulate the supply of nutrients from its bacteria, and how does it control rate at which the bacteria grow and divide?

Sugar nutrition and osmoregulation of phloem-feeding insects ... more

Sugar-rich plant phloem sap is a source of abundant carbon and a grave osmotic challenge.  How do phloem-feeding insects utilize this diet without dehydrating through uncontrolled passage of water from the body fluids to the gut? Can we interfere with these osmoregulatory processes to induce osmotic collapse and early death of phloem-feeding pests, such as aphids, whiteflies and psyllids?