Research - Publications - Lab members and collaborators

Recent press coverage and interviews - Natural history film work

Curriculum vitae

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  



Tropical Field Studies course in Ecuador

Fall break 2020

Planned course intinerary - Photos from the 2019 course

Study Abroad page for this course...

Applications are open!

This unique field study course gives students hands-on experience in the ecology of tropical rain forests. Tropical Field Studies will explore the physical and biological factors that result in the formation of these forests, and their impressively high biodiversity. We will be based in a global biodiversity hot-spot in eastern Ecuador (Amazon basin), and at two higher-elevation cloud forest lodges in the Andes mountains. Students will explore some of the key animal and plant players in diverse ecosystems and their complex interactions. We will also consider the effect of human impacts on these forests, and how development processes affect local communities. Teaching methods will include faculty and guest lectures by local experts, immersive hands-on field teaching modules, and group field projects.

 131 peer-reviewed research publications

GoogleScholar metrics (29 March 2020) 4672 citations, H-index 36, i-10 index 87

Research Gate profile:

O'Donnell lab news


Read the blog about our new paper on army ant population genetics in the journal Insectes Sociaux...

Welcome to Stefan Bonestroo, a MS student from the Netherlands who will be working with us for the next several months. Stefan will be studynig brain development in social wood roaches (Cryptocercus), close relatives of termites, a collaboration with Dr. Christine Nalepa.

PhD candidate Meghan Barrett was awarded first place in the student poster competition at the Entomological Society of America National Meetings in St. Louis.

Sean, Ginny Caponera and Karmi Oxman spent two weeks researching the thermal physiology of ants in the Negev Desert in Israel, funded by a Stein Fellowship. We collaborated with Dr. Itamar Giladi of Ben Gurion University.

Katie Fiocca mentored a team of three undergraduates from Drexel and Haverford College for field research in Monteverde, Costa Rica.

-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, Israel 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


Web page designed and produced by Sean O'Donnell