Research: Neuroecology and Chemosensory Processes

Chemical communication is the oldest sensory system and underlies nearly every critical ecological and evolutionary interaction. Our research interests are in chemosensory physiology and ecology, which pertains to understanding the influence of chemical signals on ecological interactions, and the neural basis of behavior. This research combines neuroethological and ecological approaches to the sensory modulation of behavior, marrying explorations of the neural basis of behavior with inquiry into the roles of behavior in establishing patterns of organismal abundance and species distributions in the field. “Neuroecology” scales from the chemistry of odorant molecules, to coding of stimuli in the central nervous system to drive behavior, to organismal interactions and even communities.

To meet this task, our work seeks to developed new instrumentation and analytical techniques for identifying the structure and concentrations of critical signal molecules while determining how the olfactory system encodes these signal compounds. Through field and laboratory studies, our research seeks to find the similarities and differences between chemical communication systems and their roles in regulating ecological interactions.

Neuroecology of plant-pollinator interactions

Chemoreception in single cells