Emilie Snell-Rood
Phone Numbers
Office Address

1987 Upper Buford Circle
St. Paul, MN 55108
United States

Emilie C.


Ecology, Evolution and Behavior

The Snell-Rood lab studies why organisms vary in their response to novel environments, for instance due to learning or general stress responses. We use this understanding to inform efforts related to conservation, such as restoration of roadsides or urban greenspaces. We are also interested in bridges between biology and design and engineering, through educational efforts to bring more biology into bio-inspired design.

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Research interests

Organisms today are faced with environmental change on a scale unknown in their evolutionary history. Their ancestral habitats have been converted to monocultures of crops or expanses of houses; ecosystem nutrient cycles are shifting due to fertilizer application; and the climate is changing rapidly. How will organisms respond to such novel and rapid changes in their environment? Not only is this a pressing question for conserving biodiversity, but it is also relevant for understanding how past environmental change has shaped modern biological diversity. My lab takes both a basic and applied approach to understanding responses to environmental change. We ask why are some developmental programs more flexible than others? What are the consequences of such variation in plasticity for survival and diversification novel environments? We focus on several novel, anthropogenic environments -- cities, agricultural environments and roadsides. In doing so, we also address conservation-related questions. Currently, a number of projects consider roadsides as habitat for insect pollinators, studying interactions between nutrients and roadside stressors in the development of butterflies and bees.

Selected publications

Sikkink, K.L., R. Hostager, M. Kobiela, N. Fremling, K. Johnston, A. Zambre, E. Snell-Rood. Tolerance of novel toxins through generalized mechanisms: simulating gradual host shifts of butterflies. American Naturalist, in press.

Cariveau, AB, E Anderson, K Baum, J Hopwood, E Lonsdorf, C Nootenboom, K Tuerk, K Oberhauser, EC Snell-Rood. 2019. Rapid assessment of roadsides as potential habitat for monarchs and other pollinators. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, in press.

Mitchell, T.S., A.M. Shephard, C.R. Kalinowski, M.E., E.C. Snell-Rood. 2019. Butterflies do not alter oviposition or larval foraging in response to anthropogenic increases in sodium. Animal Behaviour 154:121-129.

Espeset, A, ME Kobiela, KL Sikkink, T Pan, C. Roy and E. C. Snell-Rood. 2019. Anthropogenic increases in nutrients alter sexual selection dynamics: a case study in butterflies. Behavioral Ecology 30:598-608.

Jaumann, S, and E.C. Snell-Rood. 2019. Adult nutritional stress decreases oviposition choosiness and fecundity in female butterflies. Behavioral Ecology 30:852-863.

Snell-Rood, E. C., and M. Steck. 2019. Behavior shapes environmental variation and selection on learning and plasticity: review of mechanisms and predictions. Animal Behaviour 147:147-156.

Nallu, S, JA hill, K Don, C Sahagun, W Zhang, C Meslin, E Snell-Rood, NL Clark, NI Morehouse, J Bergelson, CW Wheat, MR Kronforst. 2018. The molecular genetic basis of herbivory between butterflies and their host plants. Nature Ecology & Evolution 2:1418-27.

Snell-Rood, E.C., M.E. Kobiela, KL Sikkink, A. Shephard. 2018. Mechanisms of plastic rescue in novel environments. Annual Review Ecology, Evolution, Systematics 49:331-354.

Kobiela, ME, and EC. Snell-Rood. 2018. Nickel exposure has complex transgenerational effects in a butterfly. Integrative and Comparative Biology 58:1008-1017.

Steck, M, and E. Snell-Rood. 2018. Specialization and accuracy of host-searching butterflies in complex and simple environments. Behavioral Ecology 29:486-495.


Ph.D., University of Arizona, Tucson, 2007