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Jennifer Fewell
Dr. Fewell’s area of research is the behavioral ecology and evolution of social insects. She is interested in how task organization evolves within insect societies and in the question of how social groups function as self-organizing networks. Her current work focuses on how intrinsic variation in task performance by individual workers affects colony patterns of division of labor. Additionally, she is examining the role of genotypic variation in colony task performance.She is also interested in social insect foraging ecology. Her work in this area examines flexibility in individual foraging decisions, as well as the role of foraging energetics and nutrient diversity in foraging strategy.

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Martin Helmkampf
Studying population genetics and colony structure of the Panamanian leafcutter ant Atta colombica, I graduated in 2005 in the lab of Dr. Jürgen Gadau at the University of Würzburg, Germany. I then turned from micro- to macroevolution to research deep phylogenetic relationships between animal phyla with Dr. Bernhard Hausdorf at the University of Hamburg, Germany, where I received my PhD in 2009. The same year, I again joined Dr. Jürgen Gadau’s lab, now at Arizona State University, were I was involved in several ant genome projects. Since 2012, I am managing Dr. Jennifer Fewell’s lab at Arizona State University, balancing genetic and behavioral research interests.
Graduate Students

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Brian Haney
I am an Animal Behavior PhD student studying primary polygyny in the harvester ant Pogonomyrmex californicus. In 2008 I received a BS in Biology from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, near my hometown of Austin. As an undergraduate, I studied sexual conflict with Dr. Denise Pope in a population of fiddler crabs found near the Gulf of California in Mexico. After graduation, I moved to Beijing, China to teach English and science for a year. I proceeded to spend the next six months spending the money I made in China on a backpacking trip through Asia and Europe. I returned to the states in 2010 and after a few odd jobs was accepted into Dr. Jennifer Fewell’s lab. During the school year I split my time between teaching and analyzing ant genotypes while I spend the summers collecting ants at my field site near San Diego, California.

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Oyita Udiani
I am an Applied Mathematics PhD student in Mathematical, Computational & Modeling Sciences Center (MCMSC). I am currently working on dynamic optimization models to explore the impacts of social context on individual behavior and task patterns in cooperative ant foundress associations. I have previously worked on evolutionary game theoretical models of mate selection and predator-prey interactions with Allee effects. I hold a M.S. degree in Mathematical Bioscience from The Ohio State University, and a B.S. degree in Engineering Mathematics from Saint Augustine’s University.

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Ioulia Bespalova
I am an Animal Behavior PhD student interested in how Pogonomyrmex harvester ants use information to make foraging decisions. So far, I have worked on projects exploring antennation networks and information flow between and within task groups in Pogonomyrmex californicus, morphological adaptation in fighting Messor pergandei queens, and gene introgression in a hybridizing Pogonomyrmex population. I received a BA in Biology from Mount Holyoke College in 2011.

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Nate Smith
I am an Animal Behavior PhD student interested in studying the relationships between nutritional and cognitive ecology. I received a BS in Biology with a minor in Anthropology from Juniata College in 2013. As an undergraduate I studied site restoration following mortality of an invasive allelopathic tree species with Dr. Norris muth, tested a method for mapping DNA damage on the genomic scale under Dr. Peter Dedon at MIT, and analyzed the mechanism of retrotransposition in Saccharomyces cerevisiae for my honors thesis with Dr. Jill Keeney.

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GUO Xiaohui
I am an Animal Behavior PhD student interested in the structure and function of social insect networks and how the social structure emerged from the self-organisation process.  I received a BA in Biology from China Agriculture University in 2005, and MS in Biology from East Tennessee State University in 2013.  In ETSU, I studied the effects of climate change on ant colony with Dr. Istvan Karsai by simulating the life of ant colony in Netlogo platform.
Luis Garcia
I am a senior studying biological sciences.  Throughout my experience in the lab as an undergraduate, I have become interested in how different foundress associations share the task of brood production during colony founding in the ant Pogonomyrmex californicus.
Alexa Coon
I’m interested in how different queen systems affect the growth rate of colonies in the species Pogonomyrmex californicus.
Megan Farris
I’m interested in veterinary medicine and becoming a doctor of veterinary medicine. I love working with the Acromyrmex versicolor. They are by far the coolest ant species in the desert!
Trevor Fox
I am primarily interested in exploring how physiology relates to cooperative behavior in an ecological context. Favorite ant: Atta texana.
Jose Valenzuela
I am currently working on a research program for the ASU mathematical department and with collaboration with the Biological department about social insects.  I am creating an agent based simulation that measures the interactions occurring in an ant colony with different task status.  In addition, I am developing a mean-field-model to predict their interaction patterns.  As a result, this enables us to obtain a better understanding of the information networks within the colony.  When I am not working on my research I am working towards the completion of my Aerospace engineering degree, or working at the MCC tutoring center.


Past Members