Research

May 2014 Field work picture

Dr. Beasley collects ants to study climate change effects on immune function, May 2014. Photo credit: L. Nichols

My research uses insects as model systems to explore physiological and developmental responses to global environmental threats with a focus on urbanization and climate change. Grounded in ecology and evolutionary biology, my research is expanding to include studies on the role of microbes and fungal pathogens in influencing host responses to environmental change.

Publications:

Beasley, D.E., Bonisoli-Alquati, A. and Mousseau, T.A. (2013). The use of fluctuating asymmetry as a measure of environmentally induced developmental instability: A meta-analysis. Ecological Indicators. 30: 218-226. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2013.02.024

Beasley, D.E., Bonisoli-Alquati, A., Welch, S.M., Møller, A.P. and Mousseau, T.A. (2012). Effects of parental radiation exposure on developmental instability in grasshoppers. Journal of Evolutionary Biology. 25(6): 1149-1162. doi: 10.1111/j.1420-9101.2012.02502.x

Beasley, D.E., Benson, E.P., Welch, S.M., Reid, L.S. and Mousseau, T.A. (2012). The use of citizen scientists to record and map 13-Year periodical cicadas (Hemiptera: Cicadidae: Magicicada) in South Carolina. Florida Entomologist. 95(2): 486-488. http://dx.doi.org/10.1653/024.095.0236

Climate Change

Urban bee 2016

Urban bee, July 2016. Photo credit: D. Beasley

 

Insects may be particularly vulnerable to the threat of disease under climate change due to their small body size and dependence on external conditions for regulating physiological function. Furthermore, fungal pathogens that interact with insects are strongly influenced by climate change conditions. Previous work looking at social immune response in ants and pathogen presence have been supported by NSF REU and Students Discover grants.

Current projects:

  • Insect Immunity
  • Entomopathogens

Urbanization

Chicago

City of Chicago, April 2016. Photo credit: D. Beasley

Urban growth is among the most significant changes our world societies and ecosystems have experienced since the Industrial Revolution. Urban environments are characterized by fragmented landscapes, higher ambient temperatures, pollution and high human population densities. With urban growth projected to increase by 101% in some parts of the world, these factors will arguably impose significant pressures on individual health and population viability.

Current projects:

  • Periodical cicada body size
  • Entomopathogen diversity across urban landscapes
  • Urban bees

Publications:

Beasley, D.E., Penick, C.A., Boateng, N.S.*, Menninger, H.L. and Dunn, R.R. Urbanization disrupts latitude-size rule in 17-year cicadas. Ecol. Evol. (in review).

Dunn, R.R. and Beasley, D.E. Democratizing evolutionary biology, lessons from insects. (2016). Current Opinion in Insect Science. 18: 89-92. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cois.2016.10.005.

Evolution and Ecology of Human Health

Sept 2014 Bellybutton art project4

Bellybutton portrait, September 2014. Photo credit:  Joana Ricou

In light of modern changes in diet, living conditions, medical interventions and hygiene practices humans are dramatically shaping the microbial communities that live on and inside their bodies. The changes in the microecology of our bodies and living environment have implications for human health that we are just beginning to explore. With the use of literature reviews and common microbial techniques, my research seeks to understand how our daily practices and behaviors shape microbial diversity associated with humans.

Publications:

Miller, E.A., Beasley, D.E., Dunn, R.R. and Archie, E.A. (2016). Lactobacilli dominance and vaginal pH: Why is the human vaginal microbiome unique? Front. Microbiol. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2016.01936.

Beasley, D.E., Koltz, A.M., Lambert, J.E., Fierer, N. and Dunn, R.R. (2015). The evolution of stomach acidity and its relevance to human microbiome. PLOS ONE. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0134116.

Current projects:

  • Microbial diversity of healthy schools