Welcome to the Woods Lab!
In the past two decades, physiological ecology has had a renaissance, stimulated by new conceptual approaches and new tools for analysis and experimentation and by the pressing need to understand how organisms will respond to climate change. We work at the physiology-ecology-climate interface.
At the moment, we are working primarily on the physiological ecology of plant-insect interactions. These interactions are enormously diverse and play key roles in ecosystems worldwide, but almost no work has examined the physical contexts in which those interactions take place. My students, postdocs, and I have been working on problems in this area, asking questions about (1) how physical microclimates affect chemical and biotic aspects of plant-insect interactions, and (2) how plant cues mediate tritrophic interactions between plants, their herbivores, and the predators and parasitoids of those herbivores. With French colleagues Sylvain Pincebourde and Marc Saudreau, we have been using gridded climate data to predict patterns of thermal variation at very small scales, at which insects live.
Other projects are focused on aspects of insect respiratory physiology, the developmental physiology of insect eggs, and incorporating information theory into both plant-insect signaling and the evolution of physiological homeostasis. In addition, I was recently funded by NSF (along with Amy Moran at University of Hawaii and Bret Tobalske here at University of Montana) to study polar gigantism in marine invertebrates. We'll have two field seasons at McMurdo Station, in October – November 2015 and 2016, where we'll study giant Antarctic pycnogonids (sea spiders).