Research projects

O'Donnell lab members and collaborators

The PI

Sean O'Donnell (Ph.D. Zoology/Entomology Univ. of Wisconsin 1993) and former research associate Dr. Susan Bulova (Ph.D. Zoology Univ. of Wisconsin 1994)

Tropical field research travel - Natural history television work


Graduate students 

  Congratulations! Katherine Fiocca (Biology Department- PhD defended December 2021).

Katie is studying the roles of nutritional physiology and pheromone communication in reproductive caste differentiation in tropical social paper wasps (genus Mischocyttarus).


  Meghan Barrett (Biology Department- PhD candidate).

Meghan is focusing on the neurobiology and physiological ecology of desert bees with male alternative mating tactics (Solitary nesters, but wonderful nevertheless).



Karmi Oxman (BEES Department- PhD student).

Karmi is exploring the links between parental care behavior and brain development in desert isopods (Yes, they are real. And charismatic. And also have brains.).


Undergraduate researchers

Rachel Miller (STAR fellow- bee sensory biology) and Caroline Gallen (STAR fellow- evolution of body form); Bryan Eichen (ant genetics)


Former lab members


Dr. Nicole Arcilla, 2014-2016, Behavioral ecology of bird/army ant interactions

Dr. Sara DeLeon, 2012-2014, Behavioral ecology of bird/army ant interactions


PhD degrees

Katherine Fiocca, PhD (Drexel Biology) Fall 2021 - Caste determination and physiology of paper wasps

Kaitlin Baudier, PhD (Drexel Environmental Science) Spring 2017 - Thermal eco-physiology of army ants

Thomas Soare, PhD (Univ. of Washington Psychology- Animal Behavior) Summer 2012 - Population genetics and behavioral ecology of army ants

Yamile Molina, PhD (Univ. of Washington Psychology- Animal Behavior) Summer 2009 - Evolution of caste differences in brain structure in paper wasps

Anjali Kumar, PhD (Univ. of Washington Psychology- Animal Behavior) Summer 2008 - Behavioral ecology of army ants/Conservation biology

Adam Smith, PhD (Univ. of Washington Psychology- Animal Behavior) Summer 2005 - Evolution of social structure in tropical bees


MS degrees

Virginia Caponera, MS (Environmental Science) Summer 2021 - Social spider brain evolution

Jason Stafstrom, MS (Psychology- Animal Behavior) Spring 2011 - Social spider brain evolution


Graduate researchers

Wood roach brain development: Stephan Bonestroo (visiting MS student from the Netherlands).

Ant behavioral ecology: Kevin Purce

Brain plasticity and brain evolution: Marie Clifford, Robin Harris, Ben Land

Paper wasp behavioral ecology field research: Sara Ranger, Doug Wacker, Bill Wood

Termite caste development: Dan Markiewicz

Avian behavioral ecology: Robert Driver


Undergraduate researchers

Paper wasp biodiversity: Sean Tully (NSF-REU and Psychology honors)

Army ant population genetics: Cara Allen

Brain plasticity and evolution: Vishakha Hariawala, Kayla Helem (UW Mary Gates Fellow) , Annette Kang, Hans Kelstrup, Paulina Khodak, Josh Matlock, Nola McAloon (STAR fellow), Skye Miller, Abigail Mudd (STAR fellow), Justin Neste (NSF-REU), Anna Pollock (Honors student), Andrea Repetto (NSF-REU and UW Mary Gates Fellow), John Salvo, Michaela Schuster, Elisabeth Sulger (STAR fellow), Ceri Weber

Army ant ecology/behavior: Katie D'Amelio, Tessa Erickson, Elise Koncsek, Rumaan Malhotra , Iris Nagai, Sharon Stein

Avian behavioral ecology: Francesca Dogias (STAR fellow), Emily Johnson (STAR fellow), Alyssa Klein (STAR fellow), Savanna Michener (STAR fellow), James Warren (research co-op)

Bee behavior and neurobiology: Angelina Gomez , Devneet Kainth, Cheyenne McNair (STAR fellow), Purnima Sachdeva, Zack Smith, Griffin White, Amelia Brunskill (UW Mary Gates Fellow), Tina Gray, Emily Hultgren, Annette Kang, Mary Kotschwar, Janake Nathan, Chandler Olson, Monica Reichardt (UW Hughes Fellow), Linnaea Renz, Geoff Valentine, Dave Verdirame

Behavioral genetics: Olivia Gelow, Tarn Adams, Katie Edwards, Kristin Haff, Alisa Hove, Amy Kasameyer, Meredith Klacking, Ana Kobayashi, Tina Stremick, Yoko Takahashi

Caloric restriction: Joel Greenwood

Paper wasp behavioral ecology and physiology: Meghan Campbell, Kelsey Capobianco, Rheanna Congdon, Emily Fanwick, Anastacia Feoktistova, Emily White, Andrea Repetto (NSF-REU), Nick Spang, Natalie Bostwick, Mark Burns, Jen Gee, Melissa Nakanishi

Termite caste development: Chris Dalinkus 


Collaborators from other universities

Leticia Aviles, Univ. of British Columbia - Spider brain evolution

Dan Janzen, Univ. of Pennsylvania- Paper wasp biodiversity

Robert Jeanne, Univ. of Wisconsin- Social wasp behavior, ecology, and evolution

Michael Kaspari, Univ. of Oklahoma- Ant community ecology

Daniel Kronauer, Rockefeller Univ.- Ant population genetics, ant/microbe interactions

John Lattke, Univ. of Central Venezuela- Ant community ecology

Piotr Lukasik, Univ. of Montana- Ant/microbe interactions

Kerry Naish, Univ. of Washington- Army ant population genetics

Christine Nalepa, USDA/North Carolina State Univ.- development and evolution of termite brain architecture

Barbara Thorne, Univ. of Maryland- Termite brain development

Robert Vander Meer, USDA-ARS Gainesville- Army ant chemical ecology