Dr. Thomas Powell

Assistant Professor of Biological SciencesThomas Powell

BS, Shepherd University
PhD, University of Notre Dame

Office: Science III, 112
Phone: 607-777- 4439
Email: powellt@binghamton.edu
Lab website: www.powellevolab.com

Research Interests:

Coevolution, ecological speciation, evolution and ecology of life history timing in insects

My research is broadly focused on understanding the origin and maintenance of biodiversity. I am particularly interested in the role of ecological adaptation in the formation of new species and the role of on-going evolutionary processes in the response of ecological communities to global change. My lab takes an integrative approach to investigating how ecological processes, biogeography, physiological systems, genetic variation, and genomic architecture interact during the origin of species and adaptation to novel niches and changing environments. While I am fundamentally interested in how these processes operate across the entire living world, the majority of my lab’s work is focused on the most diverse groups of animals on Earth: plant- feeding insects and their specialist parasitoids. My research at Binghamton builds on two well-established study systems: Rhagoletis fruit flies, which are a text book case of ecological speciation and evolution in action, and goldenrod gall flies, which are a classic system in evolutionary ecology.

Insects that specialize on particular plants must have life cycles that are tightly timed to the seasonality of their host plants. Specialist enemies of those insects, such as parasitoids, must in turn be synchronized to the life cycles of their victims. Thus, seasonal timing, or phenology, is a critical dimension of ecological adaptation for many insect communities. My lab has a special interest in understanding the evolution of life history timing from two perspectives. First, divergence in life history timing may be a potent driver of speciation. Second, altered seasonal timing is expected to be one of the primary stressors of global climate change on ecological communities. Work in my lab seeks to leverage divergent life history timing in cases of on-going speciation to better understand how seasonal timing evolves in insect populations, whether natural populations are likely to have the capacity for evolutionary responses to climate change, and to draw connections between this complex trait and variation in the genome.

 

Last Updated: 10/11/16