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.
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
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
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.
- Insect Immunity
Beasley, D.E., Epps, MJ, Morgan, S.* and Dunn, R.R. Effects of temperature on immune function in a temperate ant (Formicidae: Camponotus chromaiodes). J Insect Behav. (in review).
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.
- Periodical cicada body size
- Entomopathogen diversity across urban landscapes
- Urban bees
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
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.
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.
- Microbial diversity of healthy schools