My research is an investigation of the spruce budworm species complex (genus Choristoneura) in the foothills of Alberta. The complex contains a number of economically important forest pests such as eastern spruce budworm (Choristoneura fumiferana) and western spruce budworm (Choristoneura occidentalis) which together are the focus of my research. Previous laboratory studies have shown that these two species can freely hybridize and produce viable offspring. However, based on field studies, it seems that there is little to no hybridization happening between them outside of the lab. This begs the question: what evolutionary mechanisms are keeping C. fumiferana and C. occidentalis separate in their natural habitats? I hope to improve our understanding of the interactions between these species through both field and laboratory hybridization studies.
Before starting at the University of Alberta, I obtained a BScH in Biology and Environmental Science with Cooperative Education from Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. The Co-op program at Acadia allowed me to work on other pest insects with both the Canadian Forest Service as well as Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. With the CFS, I investigated the host selectivity of brown spruce longhorn beetle (Tetropium fuscum). With AAFC, I worked as a field technician in studies on spotted wing drosophila (Drosophila suzukii) and strawberry aphid (Chaetosiphon fragaefolii).