An insect studied in the Forbes Lab in the Department of Biology.

Forbes Lab Research

Undergraduate Student Research Projects

Research Project Title:
Uncovering the role of ecology in the origin of species

Research Description:
How do ecological interactions impact speciation? There are millions of animal species – where did they all come from? New species form when reproductive barriers arise between populations. Sometimes these barriers may be due to genetic incompatibilities, e.g., when hybrid individuals are inviable or sterile. However, other times barriers may involve divergent adaptations to different environments that prevent populations from mating with one another. In our lab, we work with several different insect systems (primarily true fruit flies or parasitic wasps) to determine the types of barriers that arise during the early stages of speciation. More information about the Forbes lab can be found here:

Undergraduate Role:
Undergraduates participate in field work (insect collections and field studies), population genetics (sequencing and genotyping), microscopy, and behavioral experiments. Students often begin work under the supervision of a graduate student mentor, but those with more than a semester of experience in the lab are encouraged to propose and conduct independent research relating to the broader goals of the lab.

Undergraduate Minimum Qualifications:
An interest in ecology and/or evolutionary biology is essential. An interest in insects is also a plus, though not required.

Meet an Undergrad in the Forbes Lab: Marc Beer

Research Description:

Dr. Forbes’ research lab looks at insect diversity in regard to evolutionary ecology. Before considering joining this lab, you should make sure you are comfortable around insects. Each undergraduate research assistant works on their own project that reflects their interest. Currently, Dr. Forbes has undergraduate students working on a variety of projects ranging from bioinformatics to behavioral studies.

Length of time March has been in the lab:

Since the spring of 2017



Background before Marc started working in the lab:

"I didn't have any research background before starting."

Why Marc chose this lab?

"After taking an environmental science course my freshman year, I realized that I like evolutionary biology. When I started looking for a biology research lab, I looked for labs that concentrated on evolutionary biology and found Dr. Forbes' lab."

What has Marc done in the lab?

"When I first joined the lab, I started on a project that was already established. The project was concerning thermal melanism in Strauzia, a genus of true fruit flies.

For my honor's thesis, I got to design my own project. It focuses on quantifying and comparing morphological characteristics, particularly those that display sexual dimorphism, of the various lineages within genus Strauzia. The long-term goal of my project is to find evidence, if possible, of the functional significance of these morphological features."

What Marc wants to do in the future:

"I plan to go to graduate school, and I'm interested in studying evolution of the deep sea."

What Marc wishes he knew before starting in a lab:

"I wish that I had more practice reading scientific literature before joining this lab. This skill is invaluable to understanding what any given research group is doing, and it better prepares you for conducting independent research."