I am interested in climate change, host-parasitoid interactions, endosymbiosis, plant-herbivore interactions, and how all this is affected by climate change.
One of the side projects that I am working on is the effect of wind on insects and their host plants. According to most climate change scenarios, average wind will decrease globally, but locally will increase in some places and decrease in others. That is why it is important for us to understand the direct effect of wind on insects and plants, and also the cascade of indirect effects that wind can cause on insects herbivores and predators through their host plants and prey.
Another topic that fascinates me is the endosymbiosis that occur between aphids and microbes (the symbiosis between ants and aphids is also pretty cool too). Mainly I am interested in the secondary (facultative) symbionts that some aphids harbour (Oliver et al. 2010). From the multiple secondary symbionts, I study Hamiltonella defensa and Serratia symbiotica.
H. defensa grants aphids with immune protection against the attack of parasitoid wasps. This is dependant on what strain of virus the symbiont is infected with (complicated right?). Different virus grant different levels of protection. But wasps can (sometimes!) detect if aphids are “protected” by H. defensa, and thus can decide not to waste precious eggs on protected aphids, or the opposite strategy, superinfect aphids with multiple eggs to overcome the endosymbiont resistance.
S. symbiotica is a bit simpler, since it doesn’t has any virus infection, and mainly there is a single line found in aphids around. This symbiont grants some level of temperature resistance to aphids. More precisely, aphids that harbour this symbiont are more resistant to heat shocks, but the details of this physiological interaction are not well known, and that’s what I am trying to figure!