Current Lab Members
Quentin D. Wheeler, Principle Investigator
Director of the International Institute for Species Exploration
Research interests: My interests focus on the morphology, evolution and classification of beetles (Insecta: Coleoptera), fungus-insect associations, systematic biology theory, and the role of taxonomy in biodiversity exploration and conservation.
Beetles and Fungus/Insect Associations. The most species-rich group of insects feeding on plasmodial slime molds (Myxomycetes) is the primitive staphylinoid beetle genus Agathidium (Coleoptera: Leiodidae) with several hundred described species. A recent two-part monographic treatment of the genus (Miller & Wheeler 2005; Wheeler & Miller, 2005) completes a series taxonomic revisions of all species of the tribe Agathidiini in the New World and more than doubles the number of species in the genus known from the Americas. Current work includes a comparative study of the external genitalia of the cucujoid radiation of predominantly mycophagous families.
Systematic biology theory. I am interested in the application and implications of the Phylogenetic Species Concept (PSC), particularly in hyper-diverse taxa such as insects. A book, co-edited with Dr. Rudolf Meier, contrasted this and several competing concepts of species in the contemporary literature (Species Concepts and Phylogenetic Theory: A Debate, Columbia University Press, NY, 2000). A new project will apply the PSC to a complex of highly morphologically diverse desert beetles in an attempt to unravel long-standing controversies over what constitutes a species in such cases.
Role of taxonomy in biodiversity exploration and conservation. An invited paper in a special volume of the Royal Society of London (Wheeler 2004) explains the current state and prospects of taxonomy and its essential role in understanding and conserving biological diversity. Working with taxonomists, curators, and computer scientists and engineers at ASU, I am seeking innovative approaches to the exploration, description and classification of earth's species, a new generation of research tools for speeding and improving "descriptive" taxonomy, and a new research paradigm based on larger-scale, multi-institutional, international team approaches to major taxonomic challenges.
Aaron D. Smith, Postdoctoral Researcher
Research interests: My research interests are broadly centered on questions relating to the biodiversity and systematics of beetles (Coleoptera); including revisionary taxonomy, biogeography, evolutionary ecology, speciation, and the integration of molecular and morphological data in phylogenetic studies. I am also part of a collaboration building the Coleoptera Anatomy Ontology to produce semantically enriched taxonomic descriptions using an explicit controlled vocabulary.
My primary taxonomic focus is on the species rich (~20,000 described spp.) family Tenebrionidae, also known as the darkling beetles. Thanks to strategic purchases and the collecting efforts of American Museum staff and associates, especially the David Rockefeller Mexican Expedition of 1947, the AMNH contains significant holdings of both North American and worldwide tenebrionid species. I am currently working on revisions within the distantly related tribes Asidini and Amphidorini, both of which are flightless and widespread in western North America. In addition to their taxonomy and evolutionary history, I am examining the evolution of defensive mechanisms within and between the two tribes; these include crypsis (background matching), predator swamping, the production of noxious defensive compounds within Amphidorini (often with associated aposematic warning displays), and mimicry (both Müllerian and Batesian). Several asidine species have been implicated as Batesian mimics of chemically defended Eleodes (the largest genus of amphidorines) models, while many Eleodes species are thought to be involved in Müllerian mimicry complexes with co-occuring species of the same genus.
Rebecca Dornburg, Laboratory Assistant II
Undergraduate in Biological Sciences (Ecology & Evolution) and Art (Sculpture)
Stephanie Delgado, Laboratory Assistant
Danijela Bratic, Laboratory Volunteer
I am a senior at ASU, majoring in Kinesiology with a large interest in all things Biology, especially having to do with animals. After completing my undergraduate degree in Kinesiology I hope to apply to dental school and go on to become an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. I am interested in volunteering in this particular lab because it is an amazing learning opportunity due to the different projects that are being done. I think it is amazing to be a part in helping create such a wonderful database for so many different species of beetles. This database in my opinion, is a great learning tool for many around the world who have an interest in beetles. In addition, the techniques being learned along the way are invaluable even for a career in oral surgery.
Soon Flynn, Laboratory Volunteer
I am a Biology major at ASU and like insect in general. I am really interested in tortoise beetles, such as Hemisphaerota cyanea, and the evolution of bioluminescence.
Brooke Schlott, Laboratory Volunteer
Joshua Persson, Laboratory Volunteer