Elizabeth G. Postema

About me

After growing up in Ann Arbor, MI, I relocated to Denison University in Granville, OH to pursue my undergraduate degree. Though I began my college career as a Studio Art major, I quickly found that biology was my calling – after 4 years of classes and independent research, both on- and off-campus, I graduated with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in English Literature. I studied a wide range of systems throughout college, from lemon sharks to deciduous shrubs. My love for research, writing, and insects lead me to apply to the Animal Behavior Graduate Group at UC Davis, where I am now conducting research on caterpillar color and behavior. When I’m not obsessing over bugs, I can usually be found baking bread, drawing sketches for The Ethogram, writing poetry, or belly-dancing.

Research

Broadly, I am interested in the evolution and function of anti-predator color defense in insects. I’m especially concerned with the signal constraints and tradeoffs that influence the development of any particular color pattern or sequence of patterns; for example, what selective pressures lead Papilio polyxenes caterpillars to switch from their earlier bird-dropping masquerade to their later aposematic stripes? And in what cases do we see context-dependent, temporally dynamic, and/or multipurpose color defenses that defy typical categorization? Lastly, how do insect behaviors impact (and often amplify) the effectiveness of their color defenses? For these questions and more, I look primarily to lepidopteran larvae as a study system – particularly swallowtail caterpillars (family Papilionidae), as well as monarchs (Danaus plexippus).

Contact

Department of Entomology and Nematology
Briggs Hall 380K
University of California, Davis
Davis, CA 95616 USA

egpostema@ucdavis.edu

Publications

…more to come