Projects and Collaborations

Current Projects:

Photo credit: Bruce Taubert

Morphology, reflectance, and sensory differentiation in male Centris pallida bees – My thesis work in the lab of Dr. Sean O’Donnell at Drexel University. Partially funded by a 2019 APS Lewis and Clark Grant and a 2019 ESA SRT Award. Performed in part at the University of Arizona, in part at Arizona State University, and in part at the FSMRL facilities at University of Illinois. Undergraduate students Sumaiya Zahid and Angelina Gomez (for her thesis) are working to demonstrate morphological differences in external sensory structures (eyes and antennae) between the dimorphic C. pallida males; Purnima Sachdeva, Rheanna Congdon, Sophi Schneider, and graduate student Virginia Caponera have all helped demonstrate neuroanatomical differentiation between large and small males. Pieces of this project were profiled in Drexel EXEL magazine.

The progression of ovary development in solitary Centris cockerelli and Centris pallida females from emergence through mating, foraging, and nesting – Collaborative project with Dr. Dan Papaj and Dr. Stephen Buchmann at the University of Arizona. Mentored undergraduate students Lauren Hultgren and Michaela Schuster on this work.


Natural history, adult morphology, communal brood chambers, sex allocation ratios and prey associations of Isodontia wasps in New York – Project funded by the Huyck Preserve Research Grant, given to Meghan Barrett as PI in 2018. Cheyenne McNair performed field work in relation to this project. Undergraduate Annette Kang is analyzing data and taking measurements for her 2018-2019 senior thesis project, mentoring Devneet Kainth and Angelina Gomez.

Effects of task specificity on brain resource allocation patterns in Panamanian stingless bees – Collaboration with Dr. Kaitlin Baudier at Arizona State University. Mentored undergraduate students Rheanna Congdon and Purnima Sachdeva on this project.



Photo credit: Idris Robinson

Genetic links to source populations and morphology of worker Melipona beecheii in Cuba – Collaboration with Dr. Dane Ward at Drexel University and Dr. Jose Machado at University of Cienfuegos, funded by the Eva Crane Trust (Co-PI with Dr. Ward) in 2018. Mentored undergraduate students Chandler Olson, Serena Joury, Zachary Smith, Broderick DeAngelis, and Maggie McCurdy on this project.



Photo: USGS Native Bee Lab + Sam Droege

Mandible overlap in bees – Collaboration with the USGS Native Bee Lab and Sam Droege in 2019. Do bees put their left or right mandible forward? Manuscript currently in preparation.





Designing effective course materials using active learning strategies to improve undergraduate STEM Biology courses – Collaboration with Dr. Susan Gurney and Molly Mitchell at Drexel University, to create effective course materials reliant on active learning strategies for Applications in Biology I and II and assess their effectiveness.

Past Projects:

How does caste (soldier vs worker?) influence the brain resource allocation patterns of army ants? Read the resulting publication from the O’Donnell lab (Worker-caste differences in brain investment reflect soldier behavioral specialization (Eciton army ants, Formicidae: Dorylinae) in BMC Zoology, here.

How does body size, sociality, and caste impact brain resource allocation patterns in paper wasps? 

Paper wasps are a favorite system of the O’Donnell lab for studying brain resource allocation patterns.

  1. Brain structure differences between solitary and social wasp species are independent of body size allometry in Journal of Comparative Physiology
  2. Size constraints and sensory adaptation in brain architecture (paper wasps – Vespidae: Epiponini) in Biological Journal of the Linnean Society
  3. Caste differences in the mushroom bodies of swarm-founding paper wasps: implications for brain plasticity and brain evolution (Vespidae, Epiponini) in Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

What is the impact of erythritol on termite survival? On ant survival?

Studying the impact of polyols on insect development and survival is a long-standing collaboration between the O’Donnell and Marenda labs at Drexel University. Read the resulting publication on termite survival (Erythritol causes concentration-dependent mortality in the Eastern subterranean termite (Blattodea: Rhinotermitidae)) in Journal of Economic Entomology here. My first-author manuscript on ant survival is currently in review at Journal of Economic Entomology. 

What is the impact of mannitol on Drosophila melanogaster survival and development?  

Studying the impact of polyols on insect development and survival is a long-standing collaboration between the O’Donnell and Marenda labs at Drexel University. Read the resulting first-author publication on adult survival (Mannitol ingestion causes concentration-dependent, sex-biased mortality in adults of the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster)) in PLoS One here. The first-author manuscript on developmental impacts is currently in review at Biology Open.