I am a postdoctoral fellow of the German Research Foundation (DFG) at Johannes Gutenberg University. I currently reside in the lab of Dr. Martin Kaltenpoth, where I am studying Welwitschia bugs (Probergrothius angolensis) and how their gut microbiota facilitates or responds to extreme host plant switching from Malvales plants, which are Angiosperms, to Welwitschia mirabilis, which is a strange coniferous Gymnosperm that only lives in the Namib Desert. This can help us understand how novel microbiota influence not only insect adaptation to new plants, but also to new and changing environments. I am also studying the toxic fatty acids in the seed-diets of these insects to find out how they overcome them when feeding.
During my PhD at the University of Georgia I worked with Dr. Kerry Oliver, studying aphid-parasitic wasp interactions and how defensive bacterial symbionts mediate these interactions. I found that maintenance of one of the most common defensive symbionts, Hamiltonella defensa, can incur significant fitness costs and that pea aphids maintain considerable genetic variability in ability to overcome parasitism, which may confound this symbiont's 'usefulness' in already resistant aphids. Aphids are also often attacked by multiple species of wasps and I found that two competing wasps, Aphidius ervi and Praon pequodorum, are not affected the same way by aphid defenses, which can influence their competition when attacking resistant aphids.
My research incorporates modern molecular techniques such as high throughput next generation sequencing for microbial community and bacterial genome analyses. I have also utilized GC-MS for studying fatty acid compounds. A lot of my recearch, though, still involves traditional bioassays, fieldwork, and observation. Overall, I enjoy studying insects and like to incorporate all aspects of their general biology into my research.