Alyssa Hernandez

Alyssa Hernandez

Graduate Student
Alyssa collecting in Puerto Rico
Photo by Sang Il Kim

Before pursuing my PhD at Harvard, my background had been largely focused on examining various ecological processes throughout the natural world. As an undergraduate at Cornell University, I completed a degree in Natural Resources with a focus on applied ecology. During my time at Cornell, an internship at Harvard Forest sparked my love of insects. It was there, collecting insects for Dr. Aaron Ellison, that I began a study examining beetle diversity under altered forest canopy conditions. Since then, I have been intrigued by the immense adaptability of insects, and I believe it can make them the focus of endless possible studies. I am specifically interested in beetles, because they are one of the most diverse and abundant groups of organisms on this planet.

My current research focuses on the large phytophagous beetle family known as Chrysomelidae. While some species within this group feed on a wide variety of plants, others display very specific host-plant relationships. Their specialized relationships with plants have likely contributed to their increased rate of diversification, raising questions as to how particular adaptations to host plants evolve. Because their hosts range across flowering plants, including many monocots and dicots with differing and complex surfaces, chrysomelid beetles present an opportunity to study and compare adaptive functional morphologies utilized for attachment. By looking through the lens of both functional morphology and biomechanics, I hope to explore the factors that contribute to the diversity seen in the physical structures of the beetle tarsus, while also analyzing how those adaptations influence movement.

View my CV as a PDF

Contact Information

Museum of Comparative Zoology
Harvard University
26 Oxford Street
Cambridge, MA 02138