Research - Publications - Lab members and collaborators

Recent press coverage and interviews -- Natural history film work

Sean O'Donnell, Ph.D.

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 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.

Ongoing projects include comparative analyses of brain evolution social insect caste differences in brain development, thermal physiology of individuals and of social groups across elevation gradients, and analysis of species interactions in mixed-foraging groups. The lab uses a diverse array of social insects (army ants, paper wasps) and Neotropical birds as study organisms. We are developing mathematical models of communication and division of labor in organized biological systems. The lab is also pursuing applied work, developing the non-nutritive sweetener erythritol for use in human- and mammal-safe insect control.


122 peer-reviewed research publications

GoogleScholar metrics (15 Nov 2018) 3991 citations, H-index 33, i-10 index 81

O'Donnell Research Gate profile:



Information about my Spring Break 2019 Tropical Field Studies Course:

 Course syllabus and field intinerary

 Slides from the course information session


O'Donnell lab news...


New BEES Ph.D. student Virginia Caponera joined our lab this fall. Virginia earned her bachelors degree at Bard College.

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 Meghan Barrett and Katie Fiocca organized the upcoming Social Insects of the Northeast Regions (SINNERS) meeting, to convene at the Academy of Natural Sciences on December 8th.

PhD student Katie Fiocca was selected to present a talk a the 2018 Drexel Emergring Graduate Scholars Conference, and a poster at International Research Showcase.


Research projects:

Neuroanatomy and evolution of social insect brain architecture (termites, paper wasps, and army ants) (Bulova, with Barbara Thorne- Univ. of Maryland)

Non-nutritive sweeteners as insecticides (Barrett and Fiocca, with Dr. Daniel Marenda- Drexel Biology)

Thermal tolerances and thermoregulatory abilities of Neotropical army ants (Baudier)

Avian social and ecological interactions in army ant exploitation (DeLeon, Driver)

Life-table models for analyzing division of labor in complex systems (with Dr. Mike O'Connor- Drexel)

Biomechanics and evolution of ant larvae (Baudier, with Drexel Materials Engineers Caroline Schauer and Marjorie Kiechel)

Pheromone chemistry of army ants (Fiocca, with Bob Vander Meer USDA/ARS, Gainesville)

Population genetics of the army ant Eciton burchellii (with Tom Soare and Kerry Naish of UWashington)


-See my Youtube video postings! Search for MrEciton

 Web page designed and produced by Sean O'Donnell