A Pillar For Ecosystem Health

Through fieldwork, lab experiments and computer modeling, researchers in the Joel Kingsolver Lab strive to understand how changing temperatures impact ecosystem health.

Joel Kingsolver, a Kenan Distinguished Professor in the Department of Biology within the UNC College of Arts & Sciences, and his team of students study how insects and plants respond and adapt to conflicts in the natural environment.

The Joel Kingsolver Lab focuses on climate change, invasive species and managed ecosystems, but much of their work is centered on butterflies and moths. Currently, most of their research explores how increasing temperatures affect the relationship between a hornworm species (Manduca sexta), a parasitoid wasp (Cotesia congregata) and two hornworm host plants, tobacco and devil’s claw.

“All the work in our lab integrates field studies, laboratory experiments and mathematical models to investigate insect responses to complex environments,” Kingsolver said. “Insects and temperature are great for that because we can do field studies to explore what we think are important factors and then bring them into the lab and mimic those conditions to better determine what those key factors are.”

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