July 30, 2013 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).
July, 2013 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.
July 19, 2013 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.
July 22, 2013 Karen receives a Dissertation Fellowship from Drexel's Office of Graduate Studies.
June 25, 2013 Jake and Drew's review paper "Defensive symbiosis in the real world – advancing ecological studies of heritable, protective bacteria in aphids and beyond", written with collaborator Kerry Oliver, is published online at Functional Ecology (
June 21-25, 2013 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!
June 7, 2013 Yi gives birth to twin girls — Ruochen Lu and Ruoxi Lu. See pictures on our photos page. Congratulations!
June 6, 2013 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!
June 5, 2013 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.
June, 2013 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.
May 28, 2013 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!
May 9, 2013 Jake receives tenure!
May 6, 2013 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".
Apr 27, 2013 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.
April 25, 2013 Piotr is accepted to the Ant Course, held this year from August 4-15 at the Manu Biosphere Reserve in Peru.
April 13th, 2013 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.
April 9 & 18, 2013 Drew, Yi, Andrea, and Garrett present posters at CoAS Research Day and University Research Day.
April 3, 2013 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.
April, 2013 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!
April, 2013 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.
March 15, 2013 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.
March 13, 2013 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.
January 18, 2013 Jake and Kerry Oliver submit a proposal to NSF's IOS Program in Symbiosis and Self Recognition. Fingers crossed.
January 11, 2013 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.
January 3, 2013 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
December 20, 2012 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
December 20, 2012 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

December 12, 2012 Jake administers his Genomics (BIO 413) final, and is glad to wrap up a stimulating and successful course
December 11, 2012 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
December 10, 2012 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
December 7, 2012 The "Week of the Gauntlet" is finally done—3 Ph.D defenses by students having Jake as a dissertation committee member.

December 3, 2012 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".

November 16, 2012 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!

November 11-14, 2012 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!

November 10, 2012 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
October 25, 2012 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"
October 23, 2012 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"
October 11, 2012 Yi, Karen, Drew, Karen, and Piotr present posters at the Academy of Natural Sciences' 200th Bicentennial Symposium
October 10, 2012 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
October 1-4, 2012 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
September 27, 2012 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
September 25, 2012 The lab took Nick and Amanda out to lunch to say thank you for 6 months of hard work as co-op students
September 24, 2012 Garret Mayo has joined the lab as a co-op student, while Andrea Messina has joined as a volunteer
September 13, 2012 Nancy Moran (Jake's Ph.D advisor) stops by for a quick visit before giving a seminar at UPenn

August 8, 2012 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

August 5-10, 2012 Karen gives a talk entitled "Gut responses of Trinidadian guppies to different diets" at the Ecological Society for America Meeting in Portland, Oregon

July 22-28, 2012 Piotr attends the International Symbiosis Society congress in Krakow, Poland, presenting a poster entitled "Do army ants and their associated arthropods share symbiotic bacteria?"
July 5-10, 2012 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
June 28 - July 13, 2012 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
June 23, 2012 After 10 months spent as a Fulbright Scholar at EAWAG in Kastanienbaum, Switzerland, Karen is back in the lab!

June 18, 2012 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
June 10-19, 2012 Yi participates in the next-gen sequencing workshop in National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, NC

June 8-11, 2012 During a trip to Florida Keys, Piotr samples several colonies of the ant Cephalotes varians, one of the main study species in the lab.

May 19-22, 2012 Yi and Piotr participate in the workshop on multiple sequence alignment and phylogeny estimation in Washington, DC

May 9th, 2012 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
April 28th, 2012 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?"

April 14-15th, 2012 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"

April 26th, 2012 Jake gave an invited seminar (hosted by the PERT postdocs) at the University of Arizona, entitled: "Microbial Menageries of Ants".

April 19th, 2012 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!
April 10th, 2012 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.
April 10th, 2012 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.
April 9th, 2012 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.
April 3rd, 2012 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"
April 2nd, 2012 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
March, 2012

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

March, 2012

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!

March 1, 2012

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.

January 30-31, 2012

The Lab hosted John Jaenike from the University of Rochester , who gave a fascinating talk entitled "Endosymbiont-mediated protection against parasitic nematodes".

January, 2012

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.

December, 2011
Molecular Ecology Cover

Jake Russell becomes a subject editor for Molecular Ecology

December, 2011

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".

November, 2011

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

November 13-16, 2011

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 ".

October, 8 2011

Jake, Susannah and Nolan host The Lab for a celebration of Yi and Hezhe's wedding
Photos of Yi and Hezhe's wedding party

September, 2011

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.

September 19, 2011

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.

September 19, 2011

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.

September, 2011

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

August, 2011

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!

August 12, 2011

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

August 4-14, 2011

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

August, 2011

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

June 28, 2011

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!

Aug 2, 2011

Karen Sullam has received a Jordan Award from the American Cichlid Association for a total of $1500.

The grant will fund collaborative research with Dr.'s 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.

June 18-22, 2011

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

June 7, 2011

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:

April 8, 2011

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

March 31, 2011

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.

March 31, 2011

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.

March, 2011

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)

January, 2010

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.

January, 2010

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 (

December 11-15, 2010

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.

November 19, 2010

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)

October 4, 2010
  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.
June 16, 2010
Russell Lab Website Officially Launches! The Russell Lab has officially launched!
June 1, 2010
Russell Lab Website Officially Launches! 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.