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Principal investigator

I am fascinated by the diversity and complexity of insect-microbial symbioses. My work integrates high-throughput sequencing, culture-based assays, and experimental manipulations to understand the composition and function of symbiotic communities. I employ both complex microbiota (e.g. butterfly gut flora, with dozens to hundreds of members) and pairwise relationships (e.g. the bug-Caballeronia symbiosis) as mutually informative systems.

I did my bachelors at Harvard University, where I studied insect song under Brian Farrell. Next, I was Megan Frederickson's research assistant, studying the costs and benefits of an ant-plant mutualism in Peru. I did my PhD at Stanford University, where I studied the structure and function of the butterfly gut flora with Carol Boggs and Kabir Peay. This work was funded by an NSF GRFP grant. I began exploring the bug-Caballeronia system during an NIH-funded PERT (Postdoctoral Excellence in Research and Teaching) fellowship with Molly Hunter at the University of Arizona. In September 2019 I started as a professor at the University of Texas, Arlington. The lab is currently funded by an NSF CAREER grant, a USDA NIFA grant, a UTA RIG grant, and a UTA RISE100 fellowship.

Find me online: Twitter  CV


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Postdoctoral Fellow (joined Spring 2023)

I am a postdoctoral researcher broadly interested in symbiosis, entomology, and evolutionary ecology. I received my PhD in Biology at Drexel University in Philadelphia where I studied the functions of turtle ant gut symbionts. My current research focuses on beetle-associated symbionts, exploring the nature of microbial symbioses in fireflies and bacterial-mediated detoxification of plant defensive compounds in herbivorous leaf beetles.

Graduate students

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Graduate student (joined summer 2020)

I’m a Ph.D. candidate in the lab, studying insect-microbe interactions, using the bug-Caballeronia symbiosis as a model to better understand how different strains of environmentally acquired microbial symbionts alter host insect development and survival under varying environmental conditions. I am studying the effects symbionts have on the host by analyzing a symbiosis associated region of the Caballeronia genome, investigating how the Caballeronia symbiont may mediate host thermal tolerance, and how variation in symbiont gene expression may alter host development time and final adult size.

Overall, my research interests broadly relate to host-microbe interactions ranging from microbial symbionts to vectored pathogens. I conducted my master’s research at Michigan State University with Zsofia Szendrei, where I researched aster yellow phytoplasma and its potential insect vectors.

Find me online: Twitter  Website  CV

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Graduate student (joined fall 2021)

Hi! My name is Aly. I earned my B.S. in general Biology back in 2018 from Northern Illinois University and my M.S. in Biology in 2020 from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. I’m a microbial ecologist with an interest in all the ways insect microbiomes affect their hosts. My current projects center around pesticide degradation via the insect microbiome and the conferred resistance phenomenon.

Find me online: Twitter  Website  CV

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Graduate student (joined fall 2021)

I’m Bibek Singh Parajuli, a 2nd year Ph.D. student in the Ravenscraft Lab studying the insect-microbe symbiotic relationship. My research focuses on Leptoglossus phyllopus and its microbial symbiont Burkholderia, and the cost-benefit tradeoffs of this association for both partners. I plan to study desiccation tolerance in Burkholderia symbionts and test whether acquisition of desiccation-resistant strains of Burkholderia increase host survival in low humidity. My research will help us better understand the benefits and persistence of environmental acquisition in obligate host-microbe symbioses. My research interests also include understanding the genomic underpinnings of this symbiotic association. I conducted my undergraduate research at University of Texas at Arlington with Dr. Matthew Walsh, where I researched transgenerational plasticity and eye evolution in Daphnia.

Find me online: Twitter  Website  CV

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Rachel Vargas

Graduate student (joined fall 2021)

I’m Rachel Vargas, I joined the Ravenscraft lab in the Fall of 2021 as a Ph.D. student. My current projects focus on the gut microbes associated with the spotted bird grasshopper (Schistocerca lineata) and the American bird grasshopper (Schistocerca americana). Some of my main interests are exploring how factors like diet, developmental stage, and different populations may contribute to the differences in their microbial composition. Identifying the ability of these gut-microbes to detoxify plant toxins is another aspect of research I wish to delve into. As an undergrad, I studied the immunological effects of autotomy on a species of brown wolf spiders (Tigrosa helluo) at St. Edward’s University where I graduated with a BS in Biology in 2020. For my dissertation I hope to learn as much as I can about invertebrates-microbe symbioses, which are completely understudied for how amazing they are.

Find me online: Twitter  Website  CV


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Undergraduate research assistant (joined Fall 2022)

Hi there! My name is Amelia, and I’m a Senior working towards my BS in Biology. I started in the lab in the Fall of 2022, and it’s been an amazing experience so far! I’m currently working with grasshoppers, beetles, and caterpillars to explore their gut microbiota and investigate if they play a role in degrading plant toxins. One of my independent projects consisted of infecting grasshoppers with a strain of Methylorubrum bacteria to test concentration-based fatality. Eventually, I would like to use the experience I’ve gained in the lab to pursue a graduate degree. In my spare time, I enjoy playing video games, going on roadtrips, watching movies, and cooking!

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Undergraduate research assistant (joined Spring 2023)

Hello, my name is Irene Pham, and I am currently pursuing a BS in microbiology. I joined the Ravenscraft lab in the Spring of 2023 as a UROP student. I am currently working under Bibek Parajuli, investigating the symbiotic relationship between Leptoglossus phyllopus and Caballeronia. I enjoy reading manhwa, listening to music, and watching videos in my free time.

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Undergraduate research assistant (joined Fall 2023)

I’m John Teodosio, an undergraduate biology major working with Bibek investigating the cost-benefit trade offs of the bug-Caballeronia symbiotic association using Leptoglossus phyllopus as our model organism. I am interested in entomology, ecology, and symbiosis.

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Undergraduate research assistant (joined Fall 2023)

I am a senior majoring in Microbiology. I joined the Ravenscraft lab in the Fall of 2023 as a volunteer, continued working in the lab through the UROP Program and currently a student employee in the lab. I work primarily with 3 different species of beetles: Colorado Potato, Yellow Margin Leaf, and Tortoise beetles, attempting to learn more about how their natural gut microbiota helps them to consume toxins used by their host plants for defense. In the future I am hoping to work in forest mycorestoration, and mushroom-tree interactions. In my free time I like to read fantasy and science fiction novels, and learn about cephalopod behavior.


Undergraduate research assistant (joined Spring 2023)

Howdy! My name is Anthony Nguyen, and I am pursuing a BS in Microbiology. I am currently a senior, and I am very interested in the gut microbiome and applications of microbes to bioremediation. Currently, I am working under Aly Blanton in her project of pesticide degradation using Leptoglossus!



Undergraduate research assistant (joined Spring 2024)

I am a junior majoring in microbiology. I joined the Ravenscraft lab spring of 2024 as a research student. My primary focus is rearing grasshoppers and helping to analyze their microbiota. I am now working on an experiment to administer chlorogenic acid to spotted bird grasshoppers and determine the effects it has on their fitness. In my free time I enjoy playing video games, hanging out with friends, biking, and playing tennis/pickleball.



Undergraduate research assistant (joined Summer 2024)

I am a senior microbiology major who joined the Ravenscraft lab as a McNair scholar ‘24 for my summer research. After having taken microbial ecology and evolution with Dr. Ravenscraft, my research interests grew and I would like to study the implications of gut microbiome to their host in grad school. My current research project focuses on assessing the role and survival rate of leaf-footed bugs, also known as Leptoglossus phyllopus via soil mediated transmission of Caballeronia. I am also a big advocate for bioinformatics and am currently assisting in a project. In my free time, I like reading, painting, and hanging out with friends!

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