Sean O'Donnell, Ph.D.

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

Drexel University Papadakis Integrated Science Building, room 324, 3245 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia PA 19104 USA  

Research - Publications - Lab members and collaborators

Videos of talks, press coverage and interviews - Natural history film work

Curriculum vitae

 144 peer-reviewed research publications

GoogleScholar metrics (30 nov 2021) 5700 citations

H-index 41, i-10 index 98

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.

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 social isopods, and Neotropical birds.

Current projects include analysis of brain size as a determinant of body structure, using social behavior evolution in spiders to test social brain hypotheses, evolution and ecology of thermal physiology in desert ants, chemical basis of division of labor in paperwasps, neurobiology of biparental care in isopods, and sensory neurobiology of alternative mating tactics.

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.





Teaching: Tropical Field Studies course in Ecuador

Postponed due to covid pandemic health concerns. Next offering being planned.

Previous course intinerary from 2019

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

Sean's talk (2021: An Ant Odyssey) was part of Drexel's TEDx event on June 26th.

Katie Fiocca is in the Drexel alumni newletter for her first-place graduate research poster on body size and social behavior in wasps

Trailer for BBC series Perfect Planet (Sean helped film fire ants for the "Weather" episode)

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

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

Ginny Caponera 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


See my Youtube video postings! Search for MrEciton

 Web page designed and produced by Sean O'Donnell