I joined the Entomology and Plant Pathology Department in January 2003. My primary teaching responsibilities include delivery of graduate-level courses in insect morphology (EPP 552) and taxonomy of adult insects (EPP 548). My research program is largely focused on traditional and molecular systematics of Diptera. Although my personal research interests are focused mostly upon black flies (Simuliidae) and meniscus midges (Dixidae), I have worked with other dipteran families (Blephariceridae, Psychodidae, Tachinidae, & Thaumaleidae) and within other arthropod groups through graduate student and postdoctoral researchers working in my laboratory. My current funded projects are focused on the Dixidae and the flatheaded borer (Coleoptera: Buprestidae) genus Chrysobothris spp., especially the C. femorata species group). I am Associate Editor for Zootaxa handling submissions on Chaoboridae, Corethrellidae, Dixidae, & Thaumaleidae and also serve on the Editorial Board for Insects.

Research Focus

My research focuses on the systematics and evolution of Diptera, or true flies, with emphasis on aquatic Culicomorpha, particularly Dixidae (meniscus midges) and Simuliidae (black flies). Additionally, students and postdoctorals under my direction have published studies on Blephariceridae (net-winged midges), Psychodidae (sand and moth flies), Tachinidae (tachinids), Thaumaleidae (seepage midges), and Buprestidae (jewel beetles). Our research projects, which are typically collaborations with world renowned systematist colleagues, have strong field components and phylogenetic underpinnings, the latter using data gleaned from morphological and molecular sources.

I have a keen interest in understanding how nuclear genes differ in their ability to convey phylogenetic signal across evolutionary time and through the years have developed several fast-evolving single copy markers. These include CAD (Moulton & Wiegmann, 2004), BZF (Senatore et al. 2014), 5intG (Senatore et al. 2014), ECP1 (Senatore et al. 2014), LGL (Winkler et al. 2015), MAC (Winkler et al. 2015), and MCS (Winkler et al. 2015). Our latest phylogenetic endeavors involve moving away from traditional PCR-/Sanger-based methods to NextGen sequencing platforms.


Dixid Project (NSF-DEB-1949813)
PIs: JK Moulton, ME Staton, & KH Lamour (UTK)
Objectives: (1) reconstruct evolutionary relationships within the family using a combined morphological and phylogenomic approach; (2) conduct revisions of and phylogenomic investigations within select clades (Nothodixa, Nearctic Dixa and Dixella, Dixa of Central Asia, etc.), resulting in: (a) morphology-based products including dichotomous keys, high resolution photographic images, detailed illustrations (some employing character color-coding), and interactive 3-D models and (b) genomic-based products including inferences of phylogenetic relationships and their implications for observed morphological character evolution, biogeographical patterns, preimaginal habitat preference, etc.; (3) develop CoxI, BZF, and 5intG barcodes for world species; (4) refine and automate bioinformatics pipelines, and (5) refine and deliver a multiplatform domestic and international outreach campaign.

Buprestidae Project (USDA-SCRI- 2020-51181-32199)
K Addesso et al. (W Klingeman, K Jensen, A Fulcher, J Moulton, & B Olukolu, [UTK Co-PIs])
Moulton Lab Objective: Phylogenomics to resolve species identities and development of species-specific diagnostic assays within the Chrysobothris femorata group.

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Teaching focus

My philosophy of instruction rests on fostering engagement, promoting self-instruction, and establishing high expectations. I believe teachers have limited ability to actually teach students anything. Rather, we can only motivate students to teach themselves. My teaching goals, in addition to presenting students with the basic principles of course topics, are to stimulate students’ interest, encourage them to synthesize information from multiple sources simultaneously (i.e., from insect morphology, ecology, and behavior in the case of Insect Taxonomy), and to increase their ability to solve scientific problems. Therefore, I see my primary pedagogical role as assisting students to learn how to search for and construct a complete answer as we work through subject matter by stimulating active learning, appreciation for the art of questioning, and comfort with the idea that being wrong is a part of learning. In short, I seek to move students beyond the occupation where the question is provided (student) to one where they ask and answer questions (self-directed learner). Eventually perhaps, given suitable dedication and perfection of these skills, they can attain mastery of the subject matter.


EPP 548–Taxonomy of Adult Insects
EPP 552 – Insect Morphology

Kevin Moulton

office (865) 974-8411
mobile (865) 235-4931
EPP main office (865) 974-7135
EPP fax (865) 974-4744

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

B.S., Entomology, Clemson University
M.S., Entomology, Clemson University
Ph.D., Entomology, University of Arizona

professional appointment
85% Research, 15% Teaching

Graduate program concentrations
Bioinformatics, Genomics, and Molecular Interactions
Organismal Biology, Ecology, and Systematics

Areas of expertise
Systematics and evolution of Diptera (True Flies)

key words
evolution, systematics, taxonomy, aquatic flies, new species, phylogenetics, phylogenomics

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Research questions in our laboratory

  • How are the world’s dixid species related to one another?
    a. Is the current (or any historical) higher classification(s) for Dixidae phylogenetically valid?
    b. Should Dixa and Dixella be elevated to tribes and all constituent valid clades within raised to genus?
  • How many dixid species are there worldwide and how many currently recognized morphospecies are actually sibling species complexes?
  • Which types of nuclear genes convey the most phylogenetic signal across a wide swath of evolutionary time?
  • How do DNA fingerprinting results from fast-evolving nuclear genes compare to those from CoxI?
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Current lab members

  • Greg Curler, Postdoctoral Researcher
  • Isai Madriz, Postdoctoral Researcher
  • Alex Mykris, Freelance 3-D Modeler
  • Jackson Turner, Ph.D. Student
  • Noah Parker, M.S. Student
  • Axel Gonzalez, M.S. Student, PS Dept

Selected Publications

*Pivar, R.J., B.J. Sinclair, K. Moulton (2021). Revision of the genus Niphta (Diptera: Thaumaleidae) Theischinger of South America, with descriptions of nine new species and a new immature morphotype. Zookeys (in press).

Stireman, J.O., P. Cerretti, J.E. O’Hara, K. Moulton. 2021. Extraordinary Diversification of the “Bristle Flies” (Diptera: Tachinidae) and its Underlying Causes. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 133(1): 216–236 DOI: 10.1093/biolinnean/blab010