This concentration is focused on the study of arthropod biology and behavior and the influences of chemical and landscape ecology on their evolution at the community and species level.
As the diagnostic entomologist with the NCSU Plant Disease and Insect Clinic, my program focuses on tools and techniques for the identification of arthropods, especially insects. Identification services are vital for addressing client pest management issues, monitoring for invasive and emerging pest taxa, and providing accurate diagnoses and nomenclature for species involved in scientific research. In addition to these services, my program provides training for state extension personnel to recognize a wide variety of arthropods, publishes new records and biological information on local arthropods, and augments the NCSU Insect Museum’s specimen holdings through the collection and curation of arthropods, among other activities.
Research in the Blaimer lab focuses on addressing contemporary questions in insect evolution, community ecology, biogeography and systematics with genomic and specimen-based methods. Our research program aims to advance understanding of the historical and contemporary evolutionary processes and patterns that have shaped insect diversity and distributions, and to improve insect systematics through integrative approaches that combine molecular, morphological and ecological data. Additionally, we aim to extend current knowledge of insect diversity through field sampling and databasing at the NCSU Insect Collection.
We study the ecology of tree pests to understand why they become so abundant and damaging on urban trees and look at these production systems to reduce pesticide use. This includes developing cultural practices that prevent pest outbreaks and optimizing biological control.
Applied and basic evolutionary biology of insects. Genomic basis of pest adaptation to control efforts that use conventional pesticides or genetically engineered crops. Using population genetic modeling and experiments to make predictions about the utility of novel gene-drive strategies for suppressing or altering the characteristics of pest populations.
My program uses a landscape-level research approach that unifies fundamental concepts of arthropod life history strategies with landscape ecology to understand complex communities of pests and beneficial arthropods.
The ability to feed on wood has independently evolved several times among insects, and has often arisen alongside advanced sociality (e.g., subsociality or eusociality) and dependence on microbial symbioses. The BEES program in our lab uses a combination of comparative phylogenetics and experimental approaches to address intriguing questions on the coevolution of lignocellulose-feeding insects and their gut microbiomes.
We study the ecology of vectors of disease, with an emphasis on mosquito ecology. We have worked extensively on the container Aedes mosquitoes responsible for dengue, chikungunya, and Zika virus transmission, with investigations spanning scales of inquiry from the regional population genetics to individual behavior.
We are interested in the broad fields of behavior and chemical ecology, including identification of semiochemicals for insect control, chemosensory physiology and behavior, feeding behavior, nutritional ecology, and neural mechanisms of behavioral resistance to insecticides. Research includes identification of sex, aggregation, and caste-recognition pheromones (cockroaches, bed bugs, moth, termites, ants) and oviposition kairomones (mosquitoes, sand flies), and developing tools for monitoring, sampling, and controlling pest populations. The role of food quality in regulating food intake by cockroaches is studied to facilitate the development of more effective baits. The role of coprophagy and other food-sharing strategies is being exploited to deliver pest control agents to cockroach aggregations. We are exploring the behavioral, neural, and evolutionary bases of sugar-aversions in the German cockroach using a combination of behavioral assays, electrophysiology, and molecular approaches.
My research program has two major foci:
1) the biology and management of insects of agricultural significance in North Carolina and the southeastern United States, particularly those affecting tobacco.
2) Conservation biology questions associated with the Sandhills eco-region of North Carolina, including the response of native bee communities to prescribed fire, and the impact of pine straw extraction on soil dwelling arthropods and herbaceous plants
Our lab studies the behavioral ecology of insect societies, with a primary focus on the proximate and ultimate mechanisms of honey bee queen behavior and reproduction. In doing so, we attempt to address questions of basic science that have practical relevance. Our philosophy is to integrate a general understanding of bee biology to help improve overall colony health and productivity; in an era when the honey bee population is being severely impacted by any number of factors, we feel that it is incumbent upon the honey bee scientific community to become more proactive in asking questions that address not just basic (long-term) or applied (short-term) questions, but both.
Our research in molecular biosystematics is focused on inferring phylogenetic relationships and testing hypotheses about the evolution and diversification of insects.