ELIZABETH CASH

BIOLOGY PHD CANDIDATE

ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY

SCHOOL OF LIFE SCIENCES

RESEARCH

I am a biologist interested in the chemical communication systems of social insects. My research is currently focused on nestmate recognition in a species of harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex barbatus. I use a combination of techniques including: comparative genomics, experimental genetics, and behavioral and chemical ecology to identify proximate and ultimate factors that lead to the development and maintenance of social insect nestmate recognition systems.

I discovered if one looks a little closer at this beautiful world, there are always red ants underneath.

CURRENT PROJECTS

Nasty Neighbors

To reduce the costs of territoriality, organisms may restrict aggression to those who pose the greatest threat. A growing body of evidence shows that some group-living animals exhibit the "nasty neighbor" phenomenon, i.e., groups behave more aggressively towards individuals from neighboring groups than towards individuals from  more distant groups. In this line of research, I investigate how prior experience effects territoriality behavior.

Pheromone Development

With the exception of unicolonial species, all social insects have some form of nestmate recognition that deters members of nearby colonies from entering a foreign colony. In ants, nestmate recognition is widely though to occur through chemical cues found on the bodies of individuals, called cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs). As part of my work on nestmate recognition, I study how genetics and social environment effect CHC ontogeny and variation.

Desaturase Evolution & Function

Desaturase genes are essential for biological processes, including lipid metabolism, cell signaling, and membrane fluidity regulation. Insect desaturases are particularly interesting for their role in chemical communication, and potential contribution to speciation, symbioses, and sociality. To understand more about their evolution and function, I study the acyl-CoA desaturase gene families of insects, with a special focus on social Hymenoptera.

PUBLICATIONS

CONFERENCE POSTERS

EntSoc 2013

Uncovering the genetic basis of social insect nestmate recognition: Desaturase gene diversity among seven newly sequenced ant species

Nasty Neighbors? Territoriality behavior in Pogonomyrmex barbatus

Developing the Gestalt: Nestmate recognition cues in the red harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex barbatus

PHD Biology

Arizona State University

School of Life Sciences

2016 (expected)

 

Ant Course

California Academy of Sciences

Southwestern Research Station

2015

 

Tropical Field Biology

Arizona State University

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

2011

 

BSc Biology

The Ohio State University

College of Life Sciences Education

2009

 

Design Foundations

University of Cincinnati

Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP)

1999

— DAVID LYNCH

EDUCATION & TRAINING

Helmkampf M, Cash E, Gadau J (2014) Evolution of the insect desaturase gene family with an emphasis on social Hymenoptera. Molecular Biology and Evolution 32: 456-471. These authors contributed equally to this work.

 

Simola DF, …Cash E (18/38 authors), …Gadau J (2013) Social insect genomes exhibit dramatic evolution in gene composition and regulation while preserving regulatory features linked to sociality. Genome Research 23: 1235–1247.

 

Gibson JD, Niehuis O, Peirson BRE, Cash EI, Gadau J (2013) Genetic and developmental basis of F2 hybrid breakdown in Nasonia. Evolution 67: 2124-2132.

 

Smith CR, …Cash E (11/45 authors), …Gadau J (2011) A draft genome of the red harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex barbatus: a model for reproductive division of labor and social complexity. PNAS 108: 5667-5672.

 

Smith CD, …Cash E (6/50 authors), …Tsutsui ND (2011) The draft genome of the globally widespread and invasive Argentine ant (Linepithema humile). PNAS 108: 5673-5678.

 

Suen G, …Cash E (9/49 authors), …Currie CR (2011) The genome sequence of the leaf-cutter ant Atta cephalotes reveals insights into its obligate symbiotic lifestyle. PLoS Genetics 7, e1002007.

Evolution 2011

EntSoc 2014

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