Our research interests are broadly concerned with whether the diversity of species on earth is a cause or consequence of the diversity of roles different species play in ecosystems. Most of the lab work is phylogenetic, based on variation in DNA sequences and morphological characters, and studies vary in focus from principally ecological dimensions of resource use to emphasis on biogeographic or paleontological dimensions. We have recently completed a comprehensive phylogenetic study of the entire insect order Coleoptera, the beetles, to achieve an understanding of their many shifts among trophic level from herbivore to fungivore, detritivore, predator or parasite and thereby the evolutionary rules of assembly of the trophic pyramid.
A new research dimension in the lab, initiated by undergraduates, concerns a different kind of resource, one in which insects may overlap with birds, frogs and mammals: the acoustic signals produced by these animals for mating and territory defense. Another new research dimension concerns the ecology, diversity and life-history evolution of the Culicidae, the mosquitoes, and related blood-sucking flies.
To learn more about individual interests and projects, see individual lab members' pages.
If you are interested in joining the Farrell Lab, please contact us!