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The theme of my research is the biology of arthropods in cold environments, and my research programme actively addresses questions within this theme at scales from molecular biology to macroecology. Because of this broad focus, my laboratory does not specialise in any one or set of techniques, but rather we choose questions, apply techniques where we can, and seek collaborations where required.
The research in my lab falls under five main themes:
Functional Genomics of Cold tolerance We examine gene expression in relation to cold tolerance in model and non-model organisms to identify candidate genes associated with cold tolerance in insects. Current projects include microarray analysis of responses to cold in Drosophila melanogaster and genes associated with cold tolerance in New Zealand alpine stick insects.
Mechanisms of cold tolerance in insects We are fascinated with insects that can survive internal ice formation, and investigate this with a range of techniques, including synchrotron x-rays. We are also interested in the mechanisms underlying chill coma in insects, focussing currently on ion-motive ATPases.
Metabolism and gas exchange in insects Flow-through respirometry is one of the tools we use in the lab, and we like to use this tool to understand insect metabolic responses to low temperatures. We can also use this technique to measure water loss, and we consequently have a side interest in desiccation tolerance of insects.
Ecological consequences of overwintering physiology We are interested in how energy use and cold exposure over winter affect insect performance. Current projects include building a model of Emerald Ash Borer potential distribution based on cold tolerance; measuring energy consumption overwinter in response to variable climates and the impact of repeated cold exposure on survival and fitness of a range of species.
Evolution of cold tolerance strategies in insects Little is known about the factors that lead to freezing survival in insects. We have been using multiple Drosophila species as a way to examine cold tolerance in an evolutionary context.