Research - Publications - Lab members and collaborators

Recent press coverage and interviews - Natural history film work

Curriculum vitae

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  

 134 peer-reviewed research publications

GoogleScholar metrics (12 September 2020) 4939 citations

H-index 37, i-10 index 91

Research Gate profile:

Total Researchgate Interest 95th percentile




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 with extensive international travel. Recent field research sites include Arizona, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Israel, Peru and Taiwan.

The lab works with a diverse array of study organisms: social insects (army ants, seed-harvesting ants, paper wasps, termites), social spiders, wood roaches, desert-dwelling solitary bees and and social isopods, and Neotropical birds.

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 (collaboration with Dr. Dan Marenda)

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




Teaching: Tropical Field Studies course in Ecuador

Postponed to 2021 - dates TBA

**Most recent Course intinerary

Photos from the 2019 course

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.

O'Donnell lab news

Karmi Oxman passed her qualifying exam and advanced to PhD candidacy.

Karmi was also awarded a Stein Fellowship to support field research in Israel.

Ginny Caponera passed her qualifying exam and advanced to PhD candidacy.

Meghan Barrett was awarded a PEO Scholar Award, and an Animal Behavior Society Research Grant.

Sean was a panelist for a public discussion of the film, 'Serengeti Rules', sponsered by the Philly Environmental Film Festival & Academy of Natural Sciences.

Katie Fiocca and Karmi presented in the Drexel Office of Global Engagement’s 5th Annual International Research Showcase.

Ginny was awarded a grant from the American Arachnological Society.

Sean gave an Invited keynote talk in the Young Scientist's Symposium on Climate Change, Institute of Science and Technology (IST), Austria (remote, via Zoom).

Meghan and Katie will collaborate on paper wasp research funded by the Bob & Louise Jeanne award from the NAS/IUSSI

Karmi recveived a Drexel Global Engagement Funding Award for a presentation and field research in Israel.

 Katie earned the 2019-2020 Continuing Excellence in Teaching Assistance Award.

Meghan earned the 2020 Drexel Scholars Share Best Presentation Award.


See my Youtube video postings! Search for MrEciton

 Web page designed and produced by Sean O'Donnell