Research in the Freedman Lab focuses on the ecology and evolution of plant-insect interactions, with an emphasis on plant chemistry and how it mediates these interactions. Much of my work features monarch butterflies and their milkweed host plants, but we are broadly interested in chemical ecology, ecological specialization, local adaptation, and the evolution of phenotypic plasticity. My lab also studies monarch butterfly migration and uses comparative approaches, experiments, community science data, and natural history collections to answer basic and applied questions related to adaptation and conservation. Research in the lab is motivated by natural history and organismal biology, but we apply techniques from chemical ecology, functional genomics, and population genetics to test hypotheses. Questions that we are interested in addressing include:
- Why is dietary specialization so prevalent among insect herbivores?
- How do dietary generalists and specialists differ in patterns of gene expression?
- What can we learn about monarch butterfly ecology using chemical fingerprinting techniques?
- What are the ecological and evolutionary consequences of migration loss in monarch butterflies?