Research - Publications - Lab members and collaborators

Recent press coverage and interviews - Natural history film work

Sean O'Donnell, Ph.D.

Interim Department Head of Biology (2019-2020)

Professor of Biodiversity Earth & Environmental Science (BEES) and Biology

Drexel University

Papadakis Integrated Science Building, room 321, 3245 Chestnut Street

Philadelphia PA 19104 USA  

O'Donnell lab news


Congratulations to PhD candidates Meghan Barrett and Katherine Fiocca for receiving the 2019 Drexel Graduate College Award for Teaching Assistant Excellence; this was Meghan's second award.

New PhD student Karmi Oxman will be joining the lab this fall through the BEES department.

Sean recently returned from teaching a Drexel field ecology course in Ecuador, followed by work with a natural history film crew in Amazonian Peru.

Sean was awarded a Stein Fellowship to conduct thermal ecology research in the Negev Desert in Israel, summer 2019. He will be collaborating with Itamar Giladi at Ben Gurion University.

PhD students Virginia Caponera (talk) and Katherine Fiocca (poster) presented at the 2019 Drexel Emergring Graduate Scholars Conference.


-See my Youtube video postings! Search for MrEciton


 Research summary

Research in the O'Donnell lab addresses questions at multiple levels of biological organization (individuals, social groups, and ecological assemblages) and across levels of causation (genetics, organismal and social physiology, nervous system development and plasticity, and the evolution of brains and behavior). Much of our work involves a strong field component; recent tropical field research sites include Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Taiwan. The lab uses a diverse array of social insects (army ants, paper wasps) and Neotropical birds as study organisms.
Ongoing projects include:

Neurobiology and behavior- comparative analyses of brain evolution in arthropods; social insect caste differences in brain development

Thermal physiology of social insects- species and population differences in temperature tolerances across landscapes; individual differences within social groups; group-level thermoregulation

Ecology & behavior of mixed-species foraging groups- species differences in bird attendance of army ant raids; social and ecological interactions among birds at shared resources

Population genetics of the army ant Eciton burchellii, examining gene flow and landscape effects

Thermal and sensory physiology in alternative-tactic mating systems (Meghan Barrett, Ph.D. research)

Nutritional physiology and chemical signalling in social insects (Katherine Fiocca, Ph.D. research)

Human- and mammal-safe insect control- testing effectiveness of the polyalcohol sweetener erythritol as an ingested insecticide in social and solitary insects

Mathematical models of communication and division of labor in organized biological systems



125 peer-reviewed research publications

GoogleScholar metrics (15 July 2019) 4273 citations, H-index 35, i-10 index 82

Research Gate profile:


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