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  


 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



122 peer-reviewed research publications

 GoogleScholar metrics (11 Dec 2018) 4024 citations, H-index 34, i-10 index 82

O'Donnell Research Gate profile:



O'Donnell lab news


PhD students Meghan Barrett and Katie Fiocca organized the wildly successful Social Insects of the Northeast Regions (SINNERS) meeting, held at the Academy of Natural Sciences on December 8th.

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


-See my Youtube video postings! Search for MrEciton

 Web page designed and produced by Sean O'Donnell