Evolution and ecology of plant-insect interactions
My research is ultimately aimed at understanding the generation and maintenance of biodiversity. Toward this end, I study the ecological and evolutionary processes driving trophic interactions among terrestrial plants, insect herbivores, and carnivores that eat insect herbivores (tri-trophic interactions). These organisms collectively account for over 50% of all 1.9 million described species on Earth.
I am interested in the significance of tri-trophic and other species interactions for generating biodiversity (e.g., Singer and Stireman 2005, Janson et al. 2008), ecological specialization (Singer 2008, Forister et al. 2012), and predicting the dynamics of ecological networks (Singer et al. 2012, 2014). This tri-trophic paradigm can also reveal new phenomena, such as the discovery of self-medication behavior in insect herbivores (Singer et al. 2009). My approach to testing and developing ecological and evolutionary theory uses information at several levels of biological organization. Consequently, this work is often collaborative, involving the disciplines of community ecology, evolutionary ecology, chemical ecology, behavioral science, neurophysiology, biochemistry, systematics, conservation biology and natural history.