I joined the Entomology and Plant Pathology Department in August 2016. I came to UTIA from the USDA Agricultural Research Service where I spent ten years (2006-2016) studying fire ant biology and natural history. I held two academic positions before that (Western Michigan University [1998-2002] and University of Wisconsin [2002-2006]). My primary teaching responsibilities in the past were Introductory Genetics, Evolutionary Genetics, and Molecular Evolution. I was a postdoctoral research associate for almost four years at three different institutions.

Profile view of a female, winged ant
Close-up of the profile view of a winged, male ant
Profile view of a fire ant

Left to right: Solenopsis daguerrei, queen; Solenopsis daguerrei, male; Solenopsis invicta, worker (click to enlarge)

Research focus

A central concern to evolutionary biology is understanding the evolutionary, ecological, and historical processes responsible for the patterns of diversity observed in nature. One main goal of my research is to contribute to this understanding. My research program largely focuses on functional, population, and evolutionary genomics studies of fire ants (genus Solenopsis).

A showy, colorful array of various squash and pumpkins out for display during a farmer's market

Extension and outreach focus

I consider outreach an important facet of teaching. I have had the wonderful opportunity to develop and teach an outdoor science curriculum during a week-long field biology course sponsored by a middle school in Gainesville, Florida. One goal was to make learning science fun! I also am involved in two citizen science projects. Citizen science—the inclusion of the public in scientific research—is one solution and is an approach that has been growing in use over the last decade, including in the area of natural resource management.

A library hallway so chock-full of books that it only allows a foot of breathing room between the bookcases

Teaching focus

I believe that a major goal of education is the development of self-directed or perpetuating learners. In this age, information is accumulating so rapidly that no one can possess enough knowledge or skills to insure they will be ready for future developments. We must all be equipped to acquire new skills as the need dictates. Therefore, I feel I am responsible as a teacher not only for imparting knowledge, but also for teaching students to think critically and independently.


EPP 123 – Chocolate: Bean to Bar
EPP 570 – Entomology and Plant Pathology Colloquium

Word art related to ants

Recent News

DeWayne Shoemaker

Professor and Department Head
office (865) 974-7955
mobile (352) 682-9048
fax (865) 974-4744

371 Plant Biotechnology Building
2505 EJ Chapman Drive
Knoxville, TN 37996-4560

226 Third Creek Building
2505 EJ Chapman Drive
Knoxville, TN 37996-4560

B.S., Entomology, University of Georgia
Ph.D., Entomology, University of Georgia

Professional appointment
100% Administrative
(AgResearch, Herbert College, and Extension)

Graduate program concentrations
M.S. – Bioinformatics and Genomics; Entomology
Ph.D. – Bioinformatics, Genomics, and Molecular Interactions; Organismal Biology, Ecology, and Systematics

Areas of expertise
Population and evolutionary genetics/genomics of insects

evolution, fire ants, gene flow, hybrid zones, invasive species, population genetics and genomics, speciation

Information for prospective students and postdoctoral researchers
I currently am accepting graduate students. I am interested in internally motivated students and others who feel comfortable working well past the minimum target. Please contact me if you are interested in learning more about research opportunities in my laboratory.

blue circle with green dna strand

Research questions in our laboratory

  • How do invasive species adapt to new environments?
  • What genomic changes occur when a species invades a new habitat?
  • What are the genetic underpinnings of complex social behaviors?
  • What is the genetic architecture (number, distribution, and effects of genes) of species differences?
  • What are the consequences of hybridization and admixture between different species?
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Current lab members

  • Allyson Dekovich, Ph.D. Student
  • Holly Brabazon, Ph.D. Student


Resasco, J., Burt, M.A., Orrock, J.L., Haddad, N.M. & Shoemaker, D. 2022. Transient effects of corridors on polygyne fire ants over a decade. Ecological Entomology. 

Hamm, T.P., Boggess, S.L., Kandel, J.S., Staton, M.E., Huff, M.L., Hadziabdic, D., Shoemaker, D., Adamczyk, J.J., Nowicki. M. & Trigiano, R.N. 2022. Development and Characterization of 20 Genomic SSR Markers for Ornamental Cultivators of Weigela. ASHS