Welcome! I study the physiology and ecology of nutrition in insects, primarily using two insect species, the field cricket Gryllus firmus, and the desert leafcutter ant Acromyrmex versicolor. (To the right of my photo, you can see three leafcutter ant queens preparing leaves to feed their small fungus garden.) Specifically, I seek to understand (1) how nutritional regulation affects growth and physiological allocation (i.e. how do different nutrients get to different parts of the body?); and (2) how nutrition and behavior interact to drive the function and growth of complex social groups. For example, how do those ant queens balance their foraging efforts vs. tending their young, to grow a new leafcutter colony? You can read more about both lines of work in my research statement (pdf).
I also develop useful analytical scripts for others studying behavior and nutritional physiology, using the open-source software program R. Find a link to this work here and in the Learn R section below. I aspire to conduct research and teach, as I believe the two activities complement each other; here is a link to my Teaching Philosophy (pdf).
- Clark, R.M., Zera, A.J., and Behmer, S.T. (2015) Nutritional physiology of life history trade-offs: how food protein-carbohydrate content influences life-history traits in the wing-polymorphic cricket Gryllus firmus. Journal of Experimental Biology, 218, 298-308.
- Clark, R.M., and Fewell, J.H. (2014) Transitioning from unstable to stable growth dynamics during early colony ontogeny in the desert leafcutter ant Acromyrmex versicolor. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 68, 163-171.
- Clark, R.M., and Fewell, J.H. (2014) Social dynamics drive selection in cooperative associations of ant queens. Behavioral Ecology 25, 117-123.
- Overson, R., Gadau, J., Clark, R.M., Pratt, S.C., and Fewell, J.H. (2014) Behavioral transitions with the evolution of cooperative nest founding by harvester ant queens. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 68, 21-30.
- Clark, R.M., McConnell*, A., Zera, A.J., and Behmer, S.T. (2013) Nutrient regulation strategies differ between cricket morphs that trade-off dispersal and reproduction. Functional Ecology 27, 1126-1133
- Kang, Y., Clark, R., Makiyama, M., and Fewell, J.H. (2011) Mathematical modeling on obligate mutualism: Interactions between leaf-cutter ants and their garden fungus. Journal of Theoretical Biology 289, 116-127.
- Holbrook, C.T., Clark, R.M., Moore, D., Overson, R.P., Penick, C.A., and A.A. Smith. (2010) Social insects inspire human design. Biology Letters 6, 431-433.
- Holbrook, C.T., Clark, R., Jeanson, R., Bertram, S., Kukuk, P., and Fewell, J.H. (2009) Emergence and consequences of division of labor in forced associations of the normally solitary halictine bee Lasioglossum (Ctenonomia) NDA-1. Ethology 115, 301-310.
- Jeanson, R., Clark, R., Holbrook, C.T., Bertram, S., Fewell, J.H., and Kukuk, P. (2008) Division of labour and socially-induced changes in response thresholds in associations of solitary Halictine bees. Animal Behavior 76, 593-602.
- Clark, R., Anderson, K.E., Gadau, J., Fewell, J.H. (2006) Behavioral regulation of genetic caste determination in a Pogonomyrmex population with dependent lineages. Ecology 8, 2201-2206.
- Clark, R., and Fewell, J.H. (2004) Eusociality. In: The Encyclopedia of Animal Behavior (Ed. M. Beckoff), pp. 992-993. Greenwood Press: Connecticut.
- R Workshop Materials and Beyond, initially created for a workshop I hosted at Arizona State University from April 2-5, 2012, subsequently expanded as I have helped different people with different tasks.
As a publicly-funded scientist, I feel it is my responsibility to make my research methods freely available to others. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so here are collections of research photos from my work with ants and crickets.