My Master's research in on the effects of light, temperature, and starvation on development and phenotypically plastic traits. Specifically, I am using corn earworm (Helicoverpa zea, formerly Heliothis zea) to test how different factors affect growth, lipid storage, and pupal diapause.
It's been suggested that organisms that cannot feed during diapause (such as pupal diapausers) will need to acquire more energy in order to survive and exit the diapause state. I am taking a close look on the effects of light cycle and temperature on pupal size and storage fat in order to test this hypothesis.
Many lepidopterans display certain growth patterns during their larval devleopment. Originally in the tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta) it was demonstrated that larvae must achieve 2 different threshold weights to pupate normally (see papers by Nijhout). My goal is to demontrate that these thresholds are present in H. zea, as well as to explore the effects of diapause-inducing conditions on these weights and whether a seperate set of thresholds exist for entering and completing diapause successfully.
After completing my Master's I would like to pursue a PhD in an ecological research field. I am interested in studying the causes and consequences of ecologically divergent traits, and possibly the impacts of these traits on ecological or sexual speciation or the interaction of the two modes of speciation.