National Science Foundation Grant EF-0341708: “AToL: Collaborative research: Large-scale phylogeny of Hymenoptera,” 2003-2009; Co-PI with Michael Sharkey, John Heraty and Michael Engel
The "Hymatol" project means "Hymenoptera: Assembling the Tree of Life." It is a large-scale study of the evolutionary history of the Hymenoptera - the order of insects containing the ants, bees and wasps. With more than 115,000 described species, this order includes as much as 10% of the species diversity of the planet, with estimates ranging between 0.3 and 2.5 million species. Economically and ecologically, Hymenoptera are one of the most important groups of organisms. Some are severe economic pests threatening both the forest industry and wheat farming (sawflies), medical and noxious pests of urban landscapes (social wasps and ants), pollinators (bees), and defenders of our agricultural crops through their ability to parasitize and control pest insects (most parasitic wasps). Knowledge of the evolution of the entire order is extremely important for placing taxa within a correct context for more limited studies of behavior, host associations and ability to discover novel pest control agents.
We have assembled a large array of international scientists in a collaborative effort, and have completed the first comprehensive analysis of higher-level phylogeny of the order Hymenoptera. The analysis included representatives of all extant superfamilies, combinging both morphological characters and sequence data.
In addition, we have carried out a more detailed study, at the family level, of the Aculeata, the stinging Hymenoptera, again combining morphological and molecular data.