ISCE – Budapest, Hungary

I was really excited to attend the International Society of Chemical Ecology in Budapest last month. It was a great meeting with lots of wonderful talks, posters and interactions! I was invited to speak in a symposia about the “Semiochemistry of aphidophagous insects”, alongside some amazing researchers! It was a wonderful opportunity to share my most recent results on aphid x ladybeetle interactions. Meetings are great because I always end up with new ideas, a fresh urge to write and new friends. Plus, visiting Budapest was a great time too !!

Enjoy a few photos from the conference website below!

mespeakingMe, trying to convince everyone they should love insect predator-prey interactions ūüėČ

DSC_3319-resizeHaving a nice chat over coffee break with Cesar Rodrigues-Saona of Rutgers and Clare Casteel of UC Davis!


DSC_1087Budapest by night, from the banquet dinner cruise at the end of the conference!


Goodbye Summer 2018 !

It was a fun and productive summer with an awesome team !! We learned a lot and I cannot wait to get it all written up this fall ! Stay tuned!Ali-4530

Summer 2018 !

Let the summer research begin!

As I enter the final summer semester of my PhD journey, I am so grateful to have 3 new undergraduate assistants!! These three awesome women will be helping me execute the last bits of research for my dissertation work looking at how predation risk influences the behavior and physiology of prey insects.

Below is a short blurb written to introduce these wonderful budding scientists (and one aspiring cyber security guru!). It will be a great summer of aphids, monarchs and so many arthropod predators!!!!


Danielle Ellis

“I recently became interested in working with wildlife and registered for my second undergraduate degree at University of Delaware to study Wildlife Ecology and Conservation. As a (super) senior, my goal is to gain research experience through Sara that will be useful when continuing my academic career as a Master‚Äôs student where I see myself out in the field studying terrestrial vertebrate predator-prey relationships. When I am not studying wildlife, you will find me enjoying time with friends and family, hiking, kayaking, or binge-watching re-runs of The Office.”

find me on instagram: @wildlifebiologistdanielle



Aubrey McElrath

“I am a Cybersecurity major with minors in German and History. In my free time I like to hike, rock climb, read, and play Dungeons and Dragons with my friends. I wanted to get involved with the work Sara is doing this summer because I really love learning about things that are outside of my comfort zone, and I can still remember always looking for bugs when I was younger, so it just kind of made sense!”

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Sydney Bird

“My name is Sydney Bird and I am a rising senior at Colgate University double majoring in Biology and Geography. My interests are mainly gene regulation, genetics, human-environment interactions, and the application of spatial analyses in these fields. I am hoping that this summer gives me an idea of whether I would like to continue with research as a career post graduation. In my free time I enjoy watching baseball, traveling, and reading.”


Article in Yale Environment Review!


The review article that I wrote last year with my advisor,¬†Doug Landis¬†was recently picked up by a graduate student, Nathalie Sommer, in the Forestry department at Yale. Nathalie writes for the Yale Environment Review, which provides reviews of current research to the public in an easier to digest format than our traditional research articles. It was a nice surprise that our review paper was chosen and we enjoyed reading Nathalie’s take on our work.¬†¬†Read the article here!

2018 Predator-Prey GRC


I had the opportunity to attend my second GRC this past month in Ventura, CA. I love the Predator-Prey Interactions GRC for so many reasons; the smaller conference size, the opportunity for interactions through meals and poster sessions, breakout sessions that lead to collaboration and ideas, and the general excitement for expanding our knowledge in this broad area. The theme of this year was “Mechanisms and Outcomes of Predator-Prey Interactions: Scaling Across Space and Time”, which led to awesome talks that not only spanned across taxa, time and space, but also across disciplines. The opening talks discussed the combination of field and laboratory studies ‚Äď highlighting some of the pitfalls of doing our work solely in one context or the other. Following the plenary, we had 4 days of research talks on the evolution of predator-prey interactions, landscape level considerations, neurobiology, and transgenerational effects of predators on prey. One of my favorite sessions was on prey responses to predator cues ‚Äď which is what much of my research focuses on! When I got back to the east coast, I came back with lots of ideas, new friendships, collaborations, some jet-lag, and a touch of sun! It is definitely worth experiencing at least one GRC if you can!!

Radio Show on Insects!!

Jared and I did a short radio show this morning about insects and married entomology life ! We even had our little one, Asher, with us in the studio. It was really fun, check it out here.

The show really got me thinking about the path we have been on together and how grateful I am to have worked with so many amazing people along the way. One of the unique things about my current degree is that I split my time between MSU (where my advisor is) and PSU (with one of my committee members and where my husband is a professor). As a visiting scientist at PSU, I have gotten some wonderful opportunities to participate in departmental seminars and outreach events through the university which have been very enriching. While my experience is far from the norm, it has been a good one. Enjoy the short radio show!




Review Paper is Out !

Well, truthfully, it has been out for a couple of months now! But, I wanted to share it nonetheless. The review discusses the most current research (past 5 years) that evaluates the influence of predation risk on prey behavior and physiology in insect systems. These non-consumptive effects of predators on prey can have far-reaching implications on population growth of predators and prey as well as the overall community structure. We argue that while the evidence for these effects is there, the current research stops short by not considering longer-term field experiments. By increasing the spatial and temporal scale for which we understand these interactions will allow for stronger predictions and potential application in pest management! Check it out and let me know what you think!

2016 Field Season

It was a very busy field season full of collard greens, butterflies and ladybeetles and an equally busy fall full of data analysis, paper submissions (and acceptances!), committee meetings and scientific meetings Р hence the lack of web presence on my end! So, I wanted to write this post to share some photos from our hot & dry, yet fun, field season!

Preprint for Firefly Paper Now Available!

An awesome collaborative project I was a involved with this past year as a part of a new class on Open Science and Reproducible Research ( Designed and taught by Dr Christie Bahlai @cbahlai #OSRRcourse is now a completed publication!!  We have formally submitted the manuscript and are waiting to hear back, for now Рenjoy it through the photographs below (credit @cbahlai) and the preprint at bioRxiv:

Visit from Velemir Ninkovic!

This week, I have had the pleasure of hosting¬†Dr Velemir Ninkovic, an Associate Professor in the Department of Ecology at SLU in Uppsala, Sweden (Velemir’s Website). We have been having a great time discussing our research intersections and imagining new directions that our science may¬†take us in the future.

On Monday, he gave a wonderful seminar to the Department of Entomology here at MSU where he presented his group’s work on many aspects of ladybird foraging ranging from habitat preference, ladybird response to plant volatiles and ending with predator-prey interactions that are driven by predator chemistry.

Tomorrow, we will have another opportunity to hear a seminar on a different aspect of his work, this time focusing on plant-plant volatile signaling. This is a joint seminar with our Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and Behavior Program (EEBB) here at MSU and should yield a wonderful multi-disciplinary audience!

We’ve also been able to take Velemir around to enjoy some of our local breweries and Michigan based craft beers as well as some ‘American cuisine’! Pictured here is Velemir enjoying Chicken and Waffles at the Lansing Brewing Company!