Jake Russell and Corrie Moreau

Jake traveled to Brazil for the 2015 annual meetings of the Society for the Study of Evolution. The setting was gorgeous, and Jake got to spend time with collaborators Corrie Moreau (pictured here), Scott Powell, and Shauna Price who are all involved in the NSF Dimensions of Biodiversity grant. Jake also oversaw the Hamilton Award competition and gave a talk on Yi's wonderful research on nutritional gut symbionts of Cephalotes ants. To see photos from the trip, take a look at our photo gallery.

Picture of Russell Lab's trip to China

Yi and Jake travel to Beijing where they give talks at a workshop on Microbial Ecology and Evolution. Lots of great Chinese and international scientists participate. And when it's over, the group heads to Xi'an, then to the Qinling National Forest Research Station (aphid hunting!), back to Xi'an, then to see the Terra Cotta Warriors. From there they head back to Beijing on the high speed train. Check out pictures from the trip in the photo gallery.

Yi celebrating the successful defense of her thesis

After six productive years, Yi has earned her doctorate! Dr. Hu gave an excellent public defense and enjoyed an after-party with the department. The lab is so proud and excited for all that she has done. Great job Yi!! Check out pictures of the day's highlights here.

The lab finally gets it together to celebrate everyone's hard work thus far in the 2015-2016 academic year. While it is bittersweet to see Brooke, Cassie, Alyssa, and Akhila moving on, the lab is happy to give a belated welcome to Jonah (our new technician), to welcome Amie (an undergrad starting in the lab), and to welcome Katie (starting her Ph.D with us in the fall).

Drew's manuscript (Patterns, causes, and consequences of defensive microbiome dynamics across multiple scales) on symbiont & enemy dynamics in the pea aphid system is accepted at Molecular Ecology!

Jake in Portland

The Entomology Meetings go down in Portland, OR. Jake and John McCutcheon’s symposium, called Horizons in the Field of Symbiosis, takes place on the first day of the meetings and goes quite well. It was a stimulating afternoon of symbiosis talks. Martin Kaltenpoth's remote seminar from Germany was a definite highlight! And Piotr got to deliver a good talk on the "Ants of the World" project. Dinner afterward is fun, and allows Jake to catch up with old friends (U of A!) and new ones too. On Tuesday, Jake, Drew, and Piotr all gave talks on the pea aphid-symbiont system. Wow, busy time!

Narayan submits his proposal for NSF’s Graduate Research Fellowship. His research plan aims to understand interactions between pea aphids' defensive symbionts and Pandora fungal pathogens. Fingers crossed!

Yi earns a McLean Fellowship from Drexel's BEES department! The award will support her research, a trip to a metagenomics workshop, and her salary as she prepares to finish her dissertation in the spring. Congratulations Yi!!

Trip to Florida Keys

Jake makes a successful trip to the Florida Keys, spending most of his time in Key West collecting arboreal ants from red mangroves. Lots of Cephalotes!! See some pictures from the trip here.

Classes start! That means that the first two classes of Jake & Gail Rosen's 3 course Metagenomics sequence has begun. Students will get to develop and test hypotheses using metagenomic tools. Included will be a project on Cephalotes ants. Fun!

Our collaborative Dimensions of Biodiversity Grant is awarded! (Dimensions: Identifying how the ecological and evolutionary interactions between host and symbiont shape holobiont biodiversity; Award ID 1442144) Our collaborative Cephalotes group is psyched to begin 5 years of research on biodiversity from a holobiont perspective! Postdoctoral and grad student recruitment for May and September 2015 start dates, respectively, will follow soon.

It's official. Piotr has finished his postdoc in the Russell lab. He is off to tour Europe for both business and pleasure, and will join the McCutcheon lab at the University of Montana in September. Piotr will be sorely missed and, resultingly, frequently harassed via e-mail. Lots of exciting results to publish yet!

Jon Sanders stops in for a 2 day visit, working with Piotr on some FISH microscopy and in depth discussions of Illumina amplicon 16S data analysis.

The Russell lab holds a goodbye dinner for Piotr at Lemon Grass Restaurant.

The lab publishes their biowall research in AEM, a collaborative effort with the Waring and Anandan labs at Drexel. Findings document that dirty air exposure recapitulates shifts in microbial communities of plant roots seen when plants are grown in a living bio-filter. Here's the url: And here's to hoping the cleaner air in Biology's PISB building continues to fuel our good health and productivity.

The Russell lab drives to Raleigh, NC for the Evolution meetings. Jake, Piotr and Drew give talks, while Yi and Narayan present posters. Jake also oversees the running of the Hamilton Award, seeing lots of great talks! The lab is excited to spend time with Jon Sanders (Pierce Lab), the Moreau lab, the Powell lab, and other friends while in town. Lab alum Karen Sullam also gives a cool talk on gut microbiota of fish!

The lab says goodbye to undergrad Justin Newton, who has worked with us for over a year now. Justin will be sticking around the area for the immediate future, so we are glad to have him around for a while longer.

The Russell lab attends SINNERS workshop hosted by the Berger lab at UPenn, getting to catch up with collaborators Daniel Kronauer, Scott Powell, and Shauna Price, and with fellow social insect nuts Tim Linksvayer and Lana Vojvodic. Yi and Piotr both give nice talks on their ant research!

Jake visits Swarthmore College as an Honors Examiner for the Biology major. He's hosted by fellow symbiosis researcher, Elizabeth Vallen, and has a great time talking with her and her graduating students about symbiosis.

Jake and John McCutcheon (Department of Biology, University of Montana) find out that their Entomological Society of America symposium, Horizons in the Field of Symbiosis has been accepted, and will take place in the afternoon of Sunday November 16 at the meetings in Portland, Oregon! We have 11 great talks lined up, so we hope to see you there!

Jake teams up with collaborators Corrie Moreau, Scott Powell, John Wertz, Jon Sanders, and Shauna Price to submit a Cephalotes proposal to NSF's Dimensions of Biodiversity Program. Third time is a charm, right?! Fingers crossed.

Justin wins the award for best undergrad poster in the Bio & Biomedical category at Drexel University’s Research Day! His poster, entitled Sharing of symbiotic bacteria between army ants and unrelated insects implicate co-inhabitance as a means for horizontal transfer, was part of a larger collaboration with Piotr, Sean O’Donnell, Daniel Kronauer, and Corrie Moreau. Great job Justin!

Barrett, Danielle, Drew, Justin, and Yi present posters at Drexel University Research Day.

Yi gives a strong seminar for the BEES department, focusing on her research on Cephalotes varians ants and their gut microbiota.

Jake travels to Burlington, VT where he is hosted by Andrew Nguyen and other members of the Helms-Cahan and Gotelli labs in the Department of Biology. This was a great visit to a fun department with lots of exciting ant research underway. Thanks to all who helped to make it a lot of fun.

The lab says goodbye to Barrett Wagner, top notch co-op student who has just completed her 6 months in the lab. At the same time they welcome co-op student Brooke Deal and volunteer Ari Yamaguchi.

Drew gives a talk in the CoAS Research Day competition. Barrett and Yi present posters.

Jon Sanders of the Pierce Lab stops by to work on ant research with Piotr and Yi. The lab celebrates the occasion with a dinner at Distrito, introducing everyone to Wyatt Owen, the newest addition to the Russell family.

Drew gives his best graduate seminar yet in front of the BEES department.

Piotr and Justin travel to the Florida Keys to collect Cephalotes varians. Justin does this just hours after returning from a vacation in Patagonia while Piotr is very much under the weather. These guys are troopers!

Jake, Susannah, and Nolan welcome a new addition to their family: Wyatt Owen Russell. He is absolutely adorable and probably the world's easiest baby! (see the Photos link for some highlights)

The Russell lab hosts Daniel Kronauer as the Biology seminar speaker, with another great dinner at Distrito afterwards.

Karen Sullam gives an outstanding defense of her dissertation. Dinner with Sue Kilham and Karen's family at JG Domestic is fantastic. Shortly after, Karen moves on to a postdoctoral position with Dieter Ebert at the University of Basel in Switzerland.

Jake and Drew give talks at the ESA meetings in Austin, TX where they spend time with members of the Oliver, Moreau, Moran, and Pierce labs.

The Russell lab hosts David Althoff as the BEES seminar speaker, followed by a great dinner at Distrito.

The Russell lab hosts Angela Douglas as the BEES seminar speaker. The follow-up dinner at Mercato is excellent.

Jake collects aphids in Indiana before heading to The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, to hang with the Moreau Lab for an afternoon and evening. Thanks to all for a great time, including Corrie and Jay for opening their home to this weary traveler.

Jake travels to Purdue University to give a talk to the Department of Entomology. He's graciously hosted by Brittany Peterson of the Scharf Lab and has lots of fun hanging out with members of the department.

Piotr leaves for Japan to complete a 2-month microscopy internship in the lab of Takema Fukatsu, under the mentorship of Ryuichi Koga. Piotr begins to master the tricky art of FISH microscopy in ants and produces some fantastic images abroad and upon his return to Drexel’s thanks to Biology’s CIC microscopy core.

The lab says goodbye to co-op Coleman Kotzer and to volunteers Steve Doll and Garret Mayo, welcoming new co-op student Barrett Wagner.

Jake, Susannah, and Nolan hit a few alfalfa fields in the Fingerlakes on their way back to Philly. Jake's field assistants are top notch, and a rewarding lunch in Ithaca afterward is just what the 3 need after hours in wet and muddy fields. (see Photos link for some cool scenery)

Narayan Wong joins the lab as a Ph.D student. We look forward to his contributions to the aphid project!

Jake and family travel to the Bay area in California for some aphid collecting and a lot of fun. (see Photos link for some cool scenery near Fairfield, CA)

Yi comes back for a lab get-together to show off pictures of her lovely girls. The lab celebrates with champagne, fruit, and Swiss chocolate (thanks to Karen).

The Russell lab hosts visiting Ph.D student Pedro Augusto da Pos Rodrigues from Diana Wheeler’s lab at the University of Arizona ( Pedro worked with Jake and Piotr to further research on the symbioses between Cephalotes ants and their gut bacteria.

Piotr is awarded the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science Postdoctoral Fellowship (Short-Term) for a two-month research visit at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Tsukuba, Japan. Piotr will work under the supervision of Dr. Ryuichi Koga ( on characterizing the distributions of symbiotic bacteria of insects within tissues of ants using fluorescence microscopy.

Karen receives a Dissertation Fellowship from Drexel's Office of Graduate Studies.

Jake, Piotr, and Drew present research talks at the Evolution meetings in Snowbird, Utah. They had a blast hanging out with Scott Powell, Corrie Moreau, and collaborators/ friends from the Moreau and Oliver labs! Jake chaired the Hamilton Award Committee again and had a great time seeing so many fantastic student talks!

Yi gives birth to twin girls — Ruochen Lu and Ruoxi Lu. See pictures on our photos page. Congratulations!

The Russell lab hosts Kevin Minbiole from Villanova University ( Kevin gave a very cool talk for the BEES department entitled "The chemical ecology of an amphibian-fungal-bacterial system". Dinner at Distrito with faculty and students capped a great day!

Jake presents a poster (co-authored by collaborator and friend Jen Stanford) at the Showcase of Teaching event organized by Drexel's Center For Academic Excellence. The poster highlights Jake's incorporation of research into three of his courses, Population Ecology Lab (ENVS 285), Bioinformatics Lab (BIO 333), and Molecular Ecology Lab (ENVS 327). The recent addition of student-driven hypothesis/experimental design, along with their implementation in ENVS 285 was the focus of the poster. Experimental findings from this course were presented as were the results of student surveys on the impacts of this course on their attitudes towards/understanding of research.

The Russell lab welcomes Master's student Danielle Rock to the lab. Danielle will be studying bacterial symbionts of aphids and the forces that shape their dynamics.

The Russell lab hosts John McCutcheon from the University of Montana ( John gave an excellent talk for the Department of Biology entitled "Extreme genome reduction in insect endosymbionts: walking the line between bacteria and organelles". Dinner at Zahav and drinks at the Khyber Pass provided a great ending to a fun and engaging day!

Jake receives tenure!

Jake submits a Dimensions of Biodiversity grant to NSF with Scott Powell, Corrie Moreau, and John Wertz. The submission is entitled "Dimensions: Establishing how the interplay between evolutionary and ecological processes shapes biodiversity within and among symbiotic partners".

Piotr's paper "The diversity and fitness effects of infection with facultative endosymbionts in the grain aphid, Sitobion avenae" is published on-line in Oecologia ( This chapter from his Ph.D. reports that in grain aphids, unlike in pea aphids, symbiont Hamiltonella does not appear to confer physiological protection against parasitoid wasps, but parasitoids still preferentially oviposit in symbiont-free aphids. This raises a series of questions on the nature of host-symbiont-parasitoid interactions in this system.

Piotr is accepted to the Ant Course, held this year from August 4-15 at the Manu Biosphere Reserve in Peru.

Drew Smith and Garrett Mayo attend the Ecological Society of America, Eastern Branch Conference at Delaware State University. Garrett presented a poster on symbiont dynamics in association to parasitoid density within natural populations and Drew gave a talk on symbiont dynamics in association with changes in fungal pressure within natural populations.

Drew, Yi, Andrea, and Garrett present posters at CoAS Research Day and University Research Day.

Karen is offered a position to work with Dieter Ebert at the University of Basel, in Switzerland. Karen’s postdoctoral research will focus on microbial communities of Daphnia.

The Russell Lab is pleased that Narayan Wong will be joining them as a Ph.D student in the Fall of 2013. Narayan comes from John Jaenike's lab at the University of Rochester (, which is exactly where Jake got his start as an undergraduate researcher way back in 1997, and where he met his wife, Susannah!

The Russell Lab welcomes undergraduates Coleman Kotzer and Justin Newton to the lab. They also welcome back Steven Doll. Coleman and Steven will be working with Drew on defensive symbionts of aphids. Justin will be working with Piotr on symbionts of army ants.

Jake's NSF TUES grant (with PI Gail Rosen and fellow co-PI Penny Hammrich, both from Drexel) is funded! The grant (Award #1245632; $199,993; 3/15/13-3/14/16) is titled "Hypothesis-driven Computational Genomics: Engaging Students in Lab Protocols and Bioinformatics via Inquiry" and provides funding to develop a three course sequence in metagenomics in which students design and test hypotheses on microbial communities and their genomic signatures.

Jake gives a short talk at an event titled "Managing Controversy in the Classroom", organized by Drexel’s Center For Academic Excellence. The talk focuses on teaching evolution and intelligent design in the classroom. Through use of footage from the PBS documentary "Judgment Day", Jake makes the argument that intelligent design should never be taught as a science.

Jake and Kerry Oliver submit a proposal to NSF's IOS Program in Symbiosis and Self Recognition. Fingers crossed.

Jake attended a presentation by summer high student Kiran Jagtiani at the Haverford School. Kiran gave a nice 5 minute talk on his summer research with Drew, before presiding over a poster summarizing his summer research. A picture of Jake, Kiran, and his mother Julapa can be found on the "photos" site in the "Russell Lab: Fall and Winter 2012/2013" folder.

Drew and Jake begin plans for another quarter of Population Ecology Lab (ENVS 285), where students will implement several experiments on aphids and their secondary symbionts

The lab enjoys lunch at the Lemon Grass Thai Restaurant in University City—a nice way to close out a good year for the lab

Jake's "long-awaited" manuscript on heritable symbionts is published in PLoS One. The research started back in 2005 and culminated with work done at Drexel by former tech Colin Funaro. It is great to have this one out there, FINALLY. It documents the diversity of heritable symbionts across ants and butterflies, infection trends within each group (e.g. high rates of multiple Wolbachia infection in ants), and the taxonomic and ecological correlates of symbiont infection across the arthropods. Link to Article

Jake administers his Genomics (BIO 413) final, and is glad to wrap up a stimulating and successful course

The Oliver and Russell labs' collaborative paper on pea aphid symbionts ("Uncovering symbiont-driven genetic diversity across North American pea aphids") is accepted at Molecular Ecology

Jake travels to Syracuse University to give an invited seminar entitled "Exploring nature's microbiome: what variable bacterial communities tell us about the causes and consequences of symbioses" for the department of Biology. Hosts David Althoff and Kari Segraves were stellar companions, scheduling lots of stimulating meetings with faculty and postdocs, and spending generous amounts of time talking science

The "Week of the Gauntlet" is finally done—3 Ph.D defenses by students having Jake as a dissertation committee member.

Karen travels to Hamilton College, her alma mater, to give an invited seminar entitled " Fishing for microbes: the interactions among fish, bacteria and their environment".

Jake and his co-editors, Jenn Rudgers and Nicole Dubilier, finish recruiting authors for a special issue of Molecular Ecology entitled "Nature's Microbiome" to be published in late 2013/early 2014. Thirty papers on symbiosis are slated for submission, review, and potential publication!

Piotr, Drew, and Jake travel to Knoxville for the Entomology meetings, where all three presented talks. It was great to hang out with the Oliver & Moreau labs, other symbiont researchers, and old friends. And the symbiosis symposium organized by Jen White, Mariana Mateos, and Raul Medina was excellent!

Piotr's article on symbiont defense against Pandora fungal pathogens is published online at Ecology Letters. This chapter from his Ph.D documents the roles of three additional symbionts — Rickettsia, Rickettsiella, and Spiroplasma — in protection of pea aphids against this natural enemy. There are now four symbionts in pea aphids that protect against this one species of fungus, raising interesting questions about how all can be maintained

Yi gives the first student seminar of the year for the new BEES department, entitled "Variation of symbiotic gut communities across diets, colonies and developmental stages of the ant Cephalotes varians"

Jake gives his "tenure talk" for the Biology department, entitled "Exploring nature's microbiome: what variable bacterial communities tell us about the causes and consequences of symbioses"

Yi, Karen, Drew, Karen, and Piotr present posters at the Academy of Natural Sciences' 200th Bicentennial Symposium

Jake and Kerry Oliver submit a review paper to Functional Ecology for possible inclusion in an upcoming special issue on defensive symbionts. The paper is entitled "Defensive symbiosis in the real world—diversity and maintenance of protective bacteria across aphids and other insects". It aims to summarize results on defensive symbionts of insects from the lab and the field, suggesting ways forward to better-study these symbioses in their natural habitat

Piotr and Yi travel to the Florida Keys to collect Cephalotes varians. Sadly, there was no time for scuba diving, but their collection efforts were very productive. You can catch a photo of Piotr from the field in the "photos" site in the "Russell Lab: Fall and Winter 2012/2013" folder

The lab attends Mike Goodisman's seminar at UPenn. Jake, Mike, and Tim Linksvayer head down to South Street afterwards for great German food, beer and, of course, cheesesteaks

The lab took Nick and Amanda out to lunch to say thank you for 6 months of hard work as co-op students

Garret Mayo has joined the lab as a co-op student, while Andrea Messina has joined as a volunteer

Nancy Moran (Jake's Ph.D advisor) stops by for a quick visit before giving a seminar at UPenn

The lab gathers for a picnic at Rittenhouse Square to say goodbye to Linh, who is about to start her Ph.D. at Georgia Tech

Karen gives a talk entitled "Gut responses of Trinidadian guppies to different diets" at the Ecological Society for America Meeting in Portland, Oregon

Piotr attends the International Symbiosis Society congress in Krakow, Poland, presenting a poster entitled "Do army ants and their associated arthropods share symbiotic bacteria?"

Yi, Linh and Jake attend the Evolution meetings in Ottawa, Canada, where Linh and Yi present posters and Jake gives a talk. We enjoyed spending time with friends and collaborators

Piotr joins Sean O'Donnell's team researching the ecology of army ants in the tropical cloud forests of Monteverde, Costa Rica. The collected samples of ants and their insect associates will allow him to compare microbial communities between and within species and colonies

After 10 months spent as a Fulbright Scholar at EAWAG in Kastanienbaum, Switzerland, Karen is back in the lab!

Kiran Jagtiani joins the lab. He comes to us from the Haverford School and was placed here as part of a competitive research cooperative at his high school that places students in research labs for one summer

Yi participates in the next-gen sequencing workshop in National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, NC

During a trip to Florida Keys, Piotr samples several colonies of the ant Cephalotes varians, one of the main study species in the lab.

Yi and Piotr participate in the workshop on multiple sequence alignment and phylogeny estimation in Washington, DC

Karen is awarded an NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (Award #1201695). The project is entitled "DISSERTATION RESEARCH: Patterns, causes, and consequences of gut microbial community variation across fish", and the $14,987 will fund Karen's research on gut communities of cichlid fish

During the Biology Department retreat in the field station in Wareham, NJ, Piotr has given a presentation "Do army ants and their associated arthropods share gut bacteria?"

Drew attends the 2012 Meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Ecological Society of America, and gives a presentation "Environmental effects on pea aphids and their defensive bacterial symbionts"

Jake gave an invited seminar (hosted by the PERT postdocs) at the University of Arizona, entitled: "Microbial Menageries of Ants".

During the Drexel University Research Day 2012, most Russell Lab members presented posters on their research (see the April 3 post for the list of titles). Two prizes were awarded in Undergraduate – Bio and Biomedical Category, both of them to members of the Russell Lab - Tyler Maruca and Linh Chau. Congratulations!

Jake Russell, together with his collaborators Dr. Shivanthi Anandan and Dr. Michael Waring, gave a seminar entitled "Cheaper, cleaner air: uncovering the benefits and mechanisms of biowalls for improved indoor air quality", presenting some of the labs' recent results and outlining future research on the roles of biowall plant-associated bacteria in degradation of volatile organic compounds.

Nicholas Jensen starts his co-op in the Russell Lab. He will study the diversity and distribution of gut bacteria in ants, and particularly in the Argentine ant.

The lab has had many successes recently, and this Monday Jake, Susannah, Nolan, Yi, Drew S, Linh, Ioannis, Riddhi, Steve, Piotr, Tyler, Julie, Mickey and Matt met at Pietro's restaurant to celebrate. This was a great opportunity to exchange latest news, but also enjoy delicious pizza and salads.

During the College of Arts and Sciences Research Day, seven members of the Russell Lab presented posters on their research:

  • Riddhi Amin, Yi Hu and Jacob Russell "Identifying Microbial Gut Symbionts of Cephalotes varians via Culture Dependent and Independent Methods"
  • Ioannis Anastopoulos, Matthew Novin, Michael Waring, Shivanthi Anandan and Jacob Russell "Root-associated microbes from Biowall plants and their roles in VOC degradation"
  • Linh Chau, Yi Hu, David Holway, and Jacob Russell "Characterization of the Gut Microbial Communities of the Invasive Argentine Ant Across Invasive Supercolonies"
  • Julie Keppler, Yi Hu and Jacob Russell "Comparison of adult and larval bacterial gut community compositions in Cephalotes varians"
  • Tyler Maruca, Ioannis Anastopoulos, Andrew Smith, and Jacob Russell "Amplification of the 16s rRNA intergenic spacer region for rapid detection of pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum, bacterial endosymbionts"
  • Yi Hu, Piotr Lukasik, Yemin Lan, Corrie Moreau, Gail Rosen, Jacob Russell "Variation of symbiotic gut communities across diets and colonies of the ant Cephalotes varians"
  • Drew Smith, Mickey Drott, Nick Tuttle, Steven Doll, Rachael DiScullio, Tyler Maruca, Ioannis Anastopoulos and Jacob Russell "Tracking defensive symbionts through time and space"

Amanda Lee has just started her co-op, and Paige Collings and Steven Doll have joined the Russell lab as volunteers (or re-joined in Steven's case). They will study population ecology and biology of the defensive endosymbionts of the pea aphid

Mickey Drott has just accepted a Ph.D. position in plant pathology at Cornell University. Congratulations!

Linh has secured a Ph.D. position at Georgia Institute of Technology. She will study evolution of sociality in social insects under the supervision of Dr Michael Goodisman . Matt has been accepted to med school - University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Congratulations!

Piotr, Yi, and Jake attended the Drexel Microbiome Workshop, organized by Russell lab collaborator Gail Rosen. Gail put together a fantastic line-up of guest speakers who focused on the "virome" and the human microbiome. Yi and Jake both presented posters - Yi on her ant research and Jake on Karen's guppy gut bacteria research.

Commencement of Population Ecology Lab course, taught by Jake Russell and with Drew Smith as a TA. During the course, students will conduct a series of experiments on various roles of secondary symbionts in aphid biology.

Molecular Ecology Cover

Jake Russell becomes a subject editor for Molecular Ecology

Two papers authored by the Russell Lab members have been accepted for publication in Molecular Ecology! Jake, Karen and Yi co-authored a paper "Highly similar microbial communities are shared among related and trophically similar ant species". Karen is the first and Jake the last author of the second article, entitled "Environmental and ecological factors that shape the gut bacterial communities of fish: a meta-analysis".

Yi and Karen submit their NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant applications. Fingers crossed!

Drew, Yi, and Jake attended the Entomology 2011 meeting in Reno, Nevada.
Jake gave a talk entitled "Shared and specialized bacterial communities among related and trophically similar ants", a part of symposium "Social insect evolution today: Clarifying leading hypotheses with novel approaches". Drew gave a talk "Seasonal variation of defensive symbionts of the pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum", and Yi presented a poster entitled "Assessing the diversity and stability of gut bacteria in Cephalotes varians ".

Commencement of Molecular Ecology Lab course, taught by Jake Russell and with Yi Hu as a TA. During the course, students will characterize microbial communities of army ants.

Piotr Lukasik joins the Russell Lab as a postdoc. Piotr, who has just completed Ph.D. in the ecology and evolution of defensive endosymbionts of aphids at the University of Oxford, UK, will study the diversity and functions of gut bacteria in ants.

Three students start their Co-ops in the Russell Lab. Julie Keppler will assist in the study of gut bacterial communities of ants. Tyler Maruca will participate in research on secondary endosymbionts of aphids. Ioannis Anastopoulos was hired to study bacterial communities associated with the Biowall.

Karen commences a year-long Fulbright Fellowship at EAWAG, Switzerland.

Yi and Jake spent a week in Florida Keys together with Corrie Moreau and Ben Rubin (Field Museum of Natural History), collecting Cephalotes varians and other ant species. The live colonies they brought back will keep the lab busy during the winter months!

Karen presented a poster entitled "Distinct gut bacterial communities across wild Trinidadian guppy populations" at the ESA Meeting in Austin, TX.

Yi attends The Ant Course in Portal, AZ, developing expertise in ant identification.

The Russell Lab moves into a shiny and spacious new lab at the Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building. Photos of New lab digs

Yi Hu gets married to Hezhe Lu during a ceremony in Daging, Heilongjiang province, China. Congratulations and the very best wishes from the whole lab!

Karen Sullam has received a Jordan Award from the American Cichlid Association for a total of $1500.
The grant will fund collaborative research with Drs Kilham and Russell, along with Dr. Peter McIntyre from the University of Wisconsin's Center for Limnology. In brief, the work aims to explore the gut bacterial communities of ecologically diverse cichlids from Lake Tanganyika. These fish have evolved different diets over a relatively short timescale. Karen's work aims to determine whether the dietary shifts have been accompanied by shifts in gut commnities. This could suggest a role for symbionts in the remarkable radiation within this group.

Jake recently traveled to the Evolution meetings in Norman, OK, where he gave a talk entitled "Microbial Menageries of Ants".

Jake recently published a review article/meta-analysis on Wolbachia of ants, which came out in June in the Online Earlier edition of Myrmecological News. The article can be found at the following website:

Jake and his wife Susannah welcomed the arrival of their son, Nolan Christopher Russell, at Lankenau Hospital.

Karen had a co-authored paper accepted at Ecology Letters. This manuscript was authored by students who took a summer course at Eawag in 2009.

Karen Sullam was recently awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to study abroad in the labs of Dr. Helmut Bürgmann and Dr. Blake Matthews at Eawag (the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology) in Switzerland. Karen will travel abroad for this wonderful opportunity from September 2011-August 2012.

Jake recently had two NSF grants awarded to study symbionts of ants and aphids. The "ant grant" (more information below) is a collaboration with fellow PI Corrie Moreau (Field Museum of Natural History), and is a three year project designed to examine the role of gut bacteria in the evolution of herbivory across the ants. The "aphid grant" (read below for more information) is a collaboration with Kerry Oliver (University of Georgia) and is designed to understand the forces driving natural dynamics of defensive symbionts and bacteriophage and their natural enemies. The funding will support Yi and Drew's Ph.D research, while also providing support for a postdoctoral researcher on the ant grant.

Award details:
NSF, DEB—Population and Community Ecology. "Collaborative Research: Inferring bacterial roles in the evolution of trophic level across the ants." $450,00. 2011-2014. (With PI Corrie Moreau from the Field Museum of Natural History)
NSF, IOS—Symbiosis, Defense, and Self-Recognition. "Collaborative Research: Factors shaping the maintenance of variation in a symbiont-mediated host-enemy interaction." $394,119. 2011-2014. (With PI Kerry Oliver from the University of Georgia)

The Russell lab recently hosted visitors from Harvard and the Field Museum of Natural History, for a "mini-conference" on microbial communities of ants. Steffi Kautz and Ben Rubin (from Corrie Moreau's lab) and Jon Sanders (from Naomi Pierce's lab) worked with Jake, Karen, and Yi to address issues in data analyses and to show off exciting results on the bacteria residing in the guts of ants.

Jake and former Russell lab technician, Colin Funaro, published a manuscript in Applied and Environmental Microbiology entitled "Army Ants Harbor a Host-Specific Clade of Entomoplasmatales Bacteria". First author, and former Russell lab technician Colin Funaro, has moved onto NC State where he is working on a Ph.D in Entomology. Co-author, Daniel Kronauer, captured the photo that was awarded the cover of the journal's first issue of 2011 (

Jake ventured to San Diego for the Entomology Meetings to give an invited talk at a symposium ("Diversity and Function of Microbial Symbioses in Solitary and Social Insects") organized by Kirk Anderson and Angela Douglas.

Jake, along with Michael Waring (PI) and Shivanthi Anandan (co-PI) were recently awarded a "GRID" award to study the roles of root-associated microbes from "biowall" plants in purifying indoor air. The long-term goal of this work is to engineer more efficient biowalls (living walls of plants) to purify the air we breathe. As such, the 4-story biowall to be installed in Drexel's Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building will provide a great opportunity for future research.

Award details:
Grants for Research Impact at Drexel (GRID) "Using biowalls to sustainably reduce human exposure to indoor volatile organic compounds." $99,991. 2010-2011. (co-PI; with PI Michael Waring, Department of Civil, Architectural, and Enviromental Engineering, Drexel University; with co-PI Shivanthi Anandan, Department of Biology, Drexel University)

Jake traveled to Athens, Georgia to give an invited seminar for the Entomology Department at the University of Georgia, and was hosted by Kerry Oliver and his lab.

Russell Lab Website Officially Launches!

The Russell Lab has officially launched!

Karen Sullam

Karen Sullam, Ph.D. candidate under Dr. Susan Kilham and Dr. Jacob Russell, received Sigma Xi Grant-in-Aid of Research (GIAR) in the amount of $400. This grant will help cover her research project expenses, which focus on intestinal microbial communities of the Trinidadian Guppy (Poecilia reticulata). The Sigma Xi Grant-in-Aid of Research program has a highly competitive application process and only approximately 20% of applicants receive any level of funding.

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