Our primary research organisms comprise a cluster of species from two insect families in the suborder Heteroptera. Most of my field work has taken place at a field site in Saga, Japan (Hinokuma Mountain, Kanzaki Town). Parastrachia japonensis (Parastrachiidae) is the sole representative of its genus in Japan, and it manifests extreme behaviors that include egg and nymph guarding, trophic egg production and progressive provisioning of drupes of the host tree as part of its semelparous (one reproductive event, or in this case, one egg clutch in its entire life) and monophagous (one food only) life history. The sole host tree, Schoepfia jasminodora (Family, Schoepfiaceae), is also the single representative of its genus in Japan.
My research on Parastrachia japonensis was featured in the 2010 BBC Natural History documentary, Life (narrated by David Attenborough). The full length documentary can be seen here: http://watchdocumentary.org/watch/life-episode-06-insects-video_869f90d55.html
Parental Cydnidae species
Presently five species within four genera (Sehirus, Adomerus, Tritomegas, Canthophorus) in the family Cydnidae have been found to display similar parental care behaviors (egg/nymph guarding, trophic egg production, progressive provisioning), with several variant manifestations of each of the different behaviors, but their life histories don’t have quite the same constraints as those experienced by P. japonensis. They are all iteroperous (several reproductive events, or, in this case, several egg clutches) and can feed on seeds of a few related plants in the family Lamiaceae, such as purple deadnettle (Lamium purpureum) and henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) in North America and Japan, lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina) in North America, and Thesium chinense (Santalaceae) and Japanese elm (Ulmus davidiana: Ulmaceae) in Japan. There are four parental cydnid species in Japan that my collaborators and I have investigated, but only one species (Sehirus cinctus) inhabits North America (Sehirus cinctus). My students and I have been rearing and investigating S. cinctus cinctus in the lab for several years. We have recently collected a second subspecies (S. cinctus albonotatus) from a field site I discovered at the Massabesic Audubon Center in Auburn, New Hampshire, and are rearing this in the lab. We will carry out comparative studies with the two North American subspecies. Most of our research involves examining the various manifestations of each of the parental care behaviors displayed in the six species in the context of the specific environmental constraints the different species have experienced over evolutionary time.
Other Research organisms
Fiddler crab (Uca pugnax): Yael Weiss is examining the relationship between the type and amount of cord grass (Spartina) in an area, and fiddler crab abundance.
Other Research organisms
Coyote (Canis latrans): New projects (not yet underway) to assess the impact of anticipated establishment of coyotes on Long Island on the local fauna (prey and mesopredators), incidence and prevalence of tick borne diseases such as Lyme disease, and the impact of the local habitat qualities on the parental care behaviors of coyotes and the success of offspring.