Symbiotic Associations among Microorganisms and Insects

This research emphasizes the context-specific nature of multiple-partner associations, and how these associations affect the ability of insects to counter pathogens, digest food, and contend with plant defensive chemicals. This work includes both a descriptive component, which employs molecular and culturing methods to characterize insect guts, and a functional component, which addresses microbial mediation of specific ecological interactions. We are developing the insect gut as a model for conducting manipulative studies of community ecology. Our insect models include bark- and wood- boring beetles and lepidopteran folivores. Current projects include:

  • Biodiversity and celluloytic activity of gut bacteria of bark and wood boring insects: bark beetles, emerald ash borer, Sirex noctilio
  • Use of symbiotic bacteria by bark beetles in defence against gallery-invading fungi
  • Resilience, stability, and geographic variation of gut communities
  • Biodiversity of gut bacteria, and interactions with Bacillus thuringiensis, in Lepidopter


Collaborators : Jo Handelsman (UW PlPath), Cameron Currie (UW Bact), Kier Klepzig (USFS), Barbara Illman (USFS)

Selected Publications and Presentations