Research in my lab concentrates on the interactions between plants, herbivores and natural enemies.  I combine both field, greenhouse and laboratory work to investigate the dynamics of these interactions from many perspectives, including behavior, evolution, ecology, physiology and plant and insect chemistry.  This research has its roots and context in attempts to understand how plant-insect-natural enemy relationships evolve and are maintained. 

My program has 2 major foci:  1)  plant defensive chemistry and its importance for herbivores and the natural enemies of these herbivores.  I am especially interested in how variation in plant compounds is important for insects that sequester these compounds and how this plant variation and its consequences for herbivores affect interactions with natural enemies. My research has both ecological and evolutionary components:  how do the dynamics of these interactions affect ecological relationships among the participants and how do these interactions evolve.  While much of my research has used chemical attributes of plants, I am also interested in questions not directly related to plant chemistry, as indicated in the description of my current projects below.  2)  response of insect communities to climate change and human disturbance.  This research is looking at how grasshopper and butterfly communities have been affected by climate change and habitat fragmentation in the Colorado Front Range.  We are using museum collections data coupled with current survey data to investigate these questions.

Themes of my research include the following:

1)Community ecology of plants, herbivores and natural enemies.

2)Effects of climate change on insect communities

3)Ecology and behavior of insect herbivores.

4)The importance of variation in plant secondary chemistry for both specialist and generalist insect herbivores and the factors affecting this plant chemical variation.

5)The importance of this chemical variation for insects that store chemical compounds from their hostplants and for their interactions with predators and parasitoids.

6)The evolution of unpalatability in insects.

7)Conservation issues related to these topics such as a) biology and biological control of invasive plants and b) declining native insect populations

8)The importance of increased nitrogen deposition on tritrophic interactions

9)Ecology of invasive plants and insect bio-control agents.

Student Research

I have mentored both Masters and Ph.D. students, as well as undergraduates interested in gaining research experience.  Graduate students in my laboratory work on a variety of different projects.  For example, recent graduate student projects include:  palatability of sequestering and non-sequestering caterpillars to invertebrate predators, ontogeny of chemical defense, seedling defenses against herbivory, response of grasshopper communities to climatic change and habitat fragmentation, response of butterfly communities to human disturbance, effects of caterpillar diet and life stage on response to parasitoids, and the effects of increased nitrogen deposition on insect herbivores.  I currently have 2 post-docs and 6 graduate students, 4 working on Ph.D.'s and 2 on masters.  I also have 2 undergraduates working on independent research projects in the lab. 

My philosophy is that graduate students should have the crucial role in deciding what project they will be working on for their degree.  For Masters students, I generally play a more direct advisory role, since it is important to get a Masters project rolling during the first or second semester. Typically Masters students work on a project quite closely related to my own research.   Ph.D. students have much more flexibility and I encourage them to focus on areas of research (related in some way to my own areas of expertise) that are of most interest to them. 

As for financial support...  All students who are admitted to the department are given financial support, primarily through teaching assistantships.  When I have research assistantships available, I try to rotate them among my graduate students.  We do not know what the stipend for next year is going to be, and will not know until later this coming spring.

If I can answer any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me. I will also be happy to talk with you more about my research and the department in general if you have any questions.  You can reach me at work (303 492-5530), or drop me a note or reach me on email ( 

Dr. Deane Bowers  ::  CU Museum and Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology    University of Colorado UCB 334  ::  Boulder, CO, 80309

Office Phone (303) 492 - 5530 :: E-mail

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Information for Prospective Students

The Deane Bowers Lab Group

at the University of Colorado in Boulder