Insect Ecology in Changing Environments

Matthew Nielsen


Prof. Dr. Matthew Erik Nielsen

NW2 / B4050
phone +49-421-218-50290
nielsenmprotect me ?!uni-bremenprotect me ?!.de

Pieris napi

Our world is a dynamic and constantly changing place. We study how living things, particularly insects, respond to their changing world—how environmental changes can alter different traits of insects, from color to behavior, potentially in adaptive ways. This topic is more important than ever because of the many new challenges created by human activities, such as climate change and urbanization.

Phenotypic plasticity, including behavior, can respond to changes within an animal’s lifespan, but not all plastic responses are equally fast or effective. Across generations, evolution becomes a possibility, and it may be especially important when responding to anthropogenic change, which can produce new cues and environments which existing plasticity can’t produce an appropriate response to.

To answer questions about phenotypic plasticity and evolution during in changing environments, our research combines field and museum-based observational studies with field and lab experiments on live organisms. We work with a wide variety of traits, from life history to color and morphology to behavior, and often consider how these different types of traits interact with each other. We study a wide range of environmental conditions but are especially interested in temperature and associated seasonal changes because temperature is ubiquitous, highly variable, and affects most aspects of biology.

The current focus of the lab is the urban evolution of seasonal plasticity in Pieris napi (green-veined white butterfly), but lab members have in the past worked with a wide range of species and habitats and will inevitably study new ones in the future!

For a list of publications, please visit Matthew Nielsen’s google scholar page.