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Harvard Forest Research Project 2022

  • Title: Novel trophic interactions determined by phytochemistry, pathogen infection, and parasitoids
  • Principal investigator: Angela Smilanich (
  • Institution: Not Specified
  • Primary contact: Angela Smilanich (
  • Team members: Deane Bowers; Adrian Carper; Jonah Ehling; Victoria Peechat; Alan Warden
  • Abstract:

    We seek to understand the determinants of herbivore niche breadth by investigating the interaction between herbivores feeding on native and novel host plants and the natural enemies of those herbivores. Using coordinated field surveys, development of a theoretical model, and experimentation, we aim to understand the processes and conditions that lead to successful niche breadth expansion. To achieve this, we focus on plant-herbivore-enemy interactions to explore the following questions: 1) How do plant-herbivore-enemy interactions differ between native and novel host plant-associated populations of a focal herbivore? and 2) How do tri-trophic interactions contribute to population growth rates and persistence of a focal herbivore on native and novel host plants. To address these questions, we use a native lepidopteran herbivore (Baltimore checkerspot: Euphydryas phaeton), its native and novel host plant species, and a set of enemies, including a parasitoid wasp and a viral pathogen. Our combined approach will allow us to make and test predictions about the processes and outcomes of expanding insect herbivore dietary niche breadth. The first question delves into the comparative interaction biology of our system, and the second question develops and utilizes a theoretical model to make and test predictions related to persistence on a novel resource.