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Plant Chemistry & Insect Decisions

I am currently studying the role of plant chemistry in the foraging and oviposition decisions of insects. I am working with the milkweed (genus Asclepias) system in which plants are defended from herbivores by the presence of highly toxic cardenolides in their leaves. I am using High Performance Liquid Chromatography and bio-assays to examine cardenolide content in leaves and the effects on oviposition preferences of monarch butterflies and monarch caterpillar performance (Jones & Agrawal in prep). These toxic cardenolides are also present in flower nectar, and I am studying how the presence of cardenolides in flower nectar affects nectar foraging by pollinating bumblebees and non-pollinating monarch butterflies (Jones & Agrawal 2016). 


I have examined the different factors that affect foraging decisions of bats that hunt their prey by eavesdropping on prey calls. I studied how Neotropical frog-eating bats, Trachops cirrhosus, perceive different components of frog calls (Jones et al. 2013a), and collaborated on a large project to determine how the multi-modal components of frog calls influence bat perception and preference (Halfwerk et al. 2014a, Halfwerk et al. 2014b). In order to assess the factors that influence plasticity in bat response to prey cues I also studied bats across seasons and populations (Jones et al. 2014), and determined that prey availability is only a partial explanation for predator preferences. Frog-eating bats also learn novel prey cues from interacting with conspecifics. I tested the hypothesis that bats are more likely to use social information to learn novel prey cues when the prey cues they are currently foraging on are unreliably associated with rewards (Jones et al. 2013b). I followed up on this research by testing the same hypothesis using a very different system of bumblebees foraging on flowers of different colors and nectar qualities. I found that in bumblebees individuals are also more likely to use social information to learn novel stimuli when they are currently foraging on low quality resources (Jones et al. 2015). 


As an undergraduate I tested the hypothesis that ladybird beetles preferentially consume less toxic aphid species (Mooney, Jones & Agrawal 2008).

Habitat selection by foraging predators

 As an undergraduate researcher at the Shoals Marine Laboratory I examined whether American lobsters are coming up from the subtidal to forage in the intertidal zone during high tide (Jones & Shulman 2008).