Graduate Student Ratnasri Mallipeddi Wins Award at ESA, ESC, and ESBC Joint Annual Meeting

Ratnasri Mallipeddi took first place in the student competition for President’s Prize for her presentation in the Physiology Biochemistry and Toxicology section 2 at the 2018 ESA, ESC, and ESBC Joint Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC, Canada. The title of her talk was “Biochemical and transcriptome characterization of the cellulolytic system in Thermobia domestica for identification of novel enzymes with industrial applications.” The presentation was co-authored by Brian Johnson, William Klingeman, Margaret Staton, and Juan Luis Jurat-Fuentes. According to Dr. Jurat-Fuentes, “Ratnasri’s research has not only resulted in the discovery of a wide array of new plant cell wall degrading enzyme (PCWDE) genes from very primitive insects that may have applications to increase efficacy of ethanol biofuel production, but more importantly

Close-up of a fire ant; note the large head and mandibles

Recent Article: Sociometry of Solenopsis Geminata Reveals Variation in Colony-Level Phenotypes in Fire Ants

Abstract: In social insects, natural selection operates at the level of the colony, rather than the individual, but our understanding of how colony-level phenotypes arise and vary between species is lacking. Here, we test how colony-level phenotypes vary within the fire ants by measuring the composition of colonies of the tropical fire ant, Solenopsis geminata, over a wide range of sizes at multiple times throughout the year. Similar to the well-studied fire ant species S. invicta, we find that S. geminata colony composition varies strongly with colony size, such that as colonies grow they produce increasingly large workers as well as queens and males. However, major production increases more rapidly with colony size in S. geminata than in S. invicta,