Lab News

October 2019

Dr. Zuk was named a University of Minnesota Regent's Professor in June of this year. The University president, Joan Gabel, hosted a lovely reception for all the three honorees on October 30th. The lab and several faculty from the Ecology, Evolution and Behavior department came out to support Dr. Zuk, who gave an touching speech about the importance of scholarly work. Here are some pictures!



Zuk lab, left to right: Dr. Mingzi Xu, Mounica Kota, Dr. John Rotenberry, Dr. Marlene Zuk, Jon Richardson, Rachel Olzer, Kristin Robinson, Dr. Justa Heinen-Kay


EEB Faculty, left to right: Dr. Emilie Snell-Rood, Dr. John Rotenberry, Dr. Susan Jones, Dr. Marlene Zuk, Dr. Dave Stephens, Dr. Mark Borrello, Dr. Ruth Shaw, Dr. Mike Travisano, Dr. Mark Bee

July 2019

Mounica Kota gave a talk at Behaviour 2019 titled "Spermatophore retention may accommodate signal loss in pacific field crickets". Fun times!


June 2019

Some more exciting news for Dr. Zuk! The Regents of the University of Minnesota named Dr. Zuk a Regent's Professor. The Regents Professorship recognizes the national and international prominence of faculty members, and is the highest honor that the University of Minnesota can bestow on its faculty. This honor recognizes faculty who have made tremendous contributions to the University of Minnesota in the form of teaching, research, scholarship, and contributions to the public good.

Justa Heinen-Kay gave an awesome talk at Evolution 2019 titled "Fitness consequences of sexual signal loss in the Pacific field cricket (Teleogryllus oceanicus)"- watch the whole thing here!

May 2019

We had our end of the semester potluck and said goodbye to two of our star seniors, Jake Hjort and Ellen Urquhart. Happy graduation, Jake and Ellen! Below is our regularly scheduled potluck photo:


April 2019

Justa Heinen-Kay got 2nd place in the postdoc lightning talk competition- congratulations, Justa!


Jake Hjort, Ellen Urquhart, and Kristin Robinson presented original research at the CBS Undergraduate Research Symposium. Kristin gave a talk about her study abroad research on spider diversity, and Jake and Ellen presented posters on research they conducted in the Zuk Lab. 


Jake Hjort


Ellen Urquhart


Kristin Robinson 

The lab came out to support them all!


Jake and Ellen presented their posters a second time at the second CBS research symposium:



In very exciting and well-deserved news, Dr. Zuk was elected to the National Academy of Sciences! Membership in the NAS is considered one of the highest honors scientists can receive, and she joins the ranks of other amazing peers that conduct novel and high-impact research. Congratulations, Dr. Zuk! See the press release here


March 2019

Drs. Zuk & Heinen-Kay received an NSF Rapid Response Research (RAPID) grant to investigate a species of cricket that colonizes fresh lava flows. Caconemobius fori'ūhini nēnē pele in Hawaiian are the first metozoan colonizers to inhabit lava fields. These little crickets are unlikely candidates for surviving on barren lava fields, and little is otherwise known about them. Our team is doing exploratory work to observe, collect, and investigate this species- the first trip was over Spring Break 2019! See some of the news coverage on this below:


December 2018

Narmin Ghalichi successfully defended her master's thesis, titled "Risk-induced plasticity in mate choice in female crickets" on December 11th. Congratulations, Narmin! Below is the group picture from her celebration party.


September 2018

Ellen Urquhart presented the results of her research on post-copulatory sexual selection in T. oceanicus at the EEB Behavior Group. She received a research grant from the University of Minnesota in Spring 2018 and completed the research in Fall 2018. Congratulations, Ellen!


August 2018

Postdoc Justa Heinen-Key and graduate students Jessie Tanner and Mounica Kota travelled to Milwaukee to attend the Animal Behavior Society (ABS) meeting.

Jessie presented a chapter of her dissertation in a session about sexual selection:


Justa gave a talk in a special symposium about how enemies shape communication systems:


Mounica participated in the ABS outreach fair, talking to attendees about insect songs and communication:


Later in the month, Dr. Zuk, along with several others in the Ecology, Evolution and Behavior department hosted the 2018 International Society for Behavioral Ecology meeting at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Jessie Tanner and Rachel Olzer both presented chapters of their dissertations, and Justa Heinen-Kay presented a poster. Mounica Kota hosted a lunch discussing diversity-related issues in ISBE and the Academy. ISBE 2018 also marked the debut of the new textbook "Insect Behavior", for which Rachel Olzer, Jessie Tanner, Justa Heinen-Kay, and Marlene Zuk are all co-authors. Congratulations, all!


Jessie Tanner successfully defended her dissertation at the end of August. Shortly afterwards, she moved to Perth, Australia to start her NSF postdoctoral fellowship in Dr. Leigh Simmons' lab. Congratulations and good luck Dr. Tanner- we miss you! Below is a picture of from Jessie's defense celebration party.


July 2018

Drs. Marlene Zuk, Justa Heinen-Kay, John Rotenberry, and graduate student Mounica Kota travelled to Hawai'i to begin work on a new lab project assessing cuticular hydrocarbon (CHC) investment in crickets. While there, they attended the American Genetics Association meeting on the big island, where Justa presented a poster.



On a side note, the intrepid travelers got to see the effects of Mount Kilauea's volcanic eruption. The picture below is the glow from Kilauea's lava flow into the ocean. The sun had set, so all the color is from the lava!


Mounica also went skydiving on the island of Oahu. Field work is awesome!


May 2018

Three of our all-star undergrads graduated this month: Kirstine Grab, Marissa Peyer, Daina Strub. Congratulations to all of you!

Our traditional end-of-year party lab photo:


April 2018

Daina Strub and Jake Hjort recently presented their research at the EEB Undergraduate Research Symposium. Dana's work focused on how the loss of song in cricket populations might affect reproductive investment in females, and Jake's work investigated whether crickets face a tradeoff between melanin investment in immune and reproductive traits.



Marissa Peyer presented her honors research, "Measuring Chemical Signals in Field Crickets: Comparing Experimental Approaches", at the UMN College of Biological Sciences Undergraduate Research Symposium. Marissa has been developing methods to study the cuticular hydrocarbons used in communication in Teleogryllus oceanicus​. Her work integrates her interest in biochemistry with our lab's research in behavioral ecology. 



December 2017

Daina Strub (upper photo) and Jake Hjort (lower photo) both recently completed research projects in the Zuk Lab. They were each awarded research grants by the University of Minnesota's Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program. Congratulations, Daina and Jake!


Daina Strub


Jake Hjort

Our traditional end-of-semester party group photo:


Group photo

October 2017

Rebecca Ehrlich officially filed her thesis with the graduate school and graduated with her M.S. in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior. Congratulations, Becky!

Dr. Zuk was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts Sciences this year! She attended the induction ceremony in October. Here, she's photographed with two other AAAS fellows from UMN: Drs. Sarah Hobbie (left) and Megan Gunnar (center).


MZ, SH and MG at AAAS induction Cambridge Oct 2017.jpg

September 2017

Welcome Mounica Kota, new PhD student!

February 2017

Jessie Tanner was awarded a Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant from the National Science Foundation for her project "Consequences of adaptive behavioral plasticity for sexual selection on an acoustic advertisement signal". Congratulations, Jessie!