I am broadly interested in parasitoid evolution within Diptera (True flies). Parasitoids are organisms that develop by drawing nourishment from the host, eventually killing it. A group of parasitoid flies of particular interest are the Bombyliidae or bee flies. Bee flies are a large fly family of ~5,000 species. These flies have a cosmopolitan distribution with a large amount of diversity found in arid and semi-arid regions. Bee fly larvae are parasitoids of a wide variety of hosts, like spider egg cases, beetles, butterflies, and wasps. Adult bee flies can typically be found pollinating a wide variety of flowers, with many species acting as important pollinators of desert blooms. Bombyliidae are an ideal group to study parasitoid evolution within Diptera because the family includes species that exhibit ecto, endo, and hyperparasitic life histories. My research interests encompass these areas of bee fly biology:
Systematics and Taxonomy of Bombyliidae:
As diverse as the biological world is, a large portion of species remain undiscovered and undescribed. As a biologist I am interested in discovering and describing this life before it is lost. Combining fieldwork, museum specimens and molecular phylogenetic methods I aim to understand the evolutionary history, phylogeography and systematics of bee flies. Current projects are aimed at developing a phylogenomic hypotheses for the Bombyliidae. I am also working on revising a few bee fly genera using a combination of species delimitation and integrative taxonomy.
Microbial Communities of Bombyliidae:
A growing interest in the field of evolutionary biology has been the study of host-associated microorganisms. Studies have shown that these microbial communities can influence a host’s behavior, digestion, development and even speciation. Current projects are aimed at understanding how bacterial communities influence host selection and diversification within bee flies.