Jessica Purcell
Assistant Professor
Department of Entomology
University of California, Riverside

Mari West

As a PhD student in the Entomology Department here at UCR, with a passion for insects and the outdoors, I am interested in studying the evolution and genomics of cooperative behavior. My previous entomological work has focused on an aggressive and cannibalistic social spider (Delena cancerides) as an undergraduate at Cornell University and the control and eradication of an extremely cooperative and super-colonial invasive ant (Anoplolepis gracilipes) as a US Fish and Wildlife Service Volunteer. The questions that drive my research interests are how Formica ant workers, with continuous size variation, but no morphological castes partition tasks. My work combines behavioral observations in the field with chemical ecology, genomics, and ant tracking in collaboration with the Keogh Lab in UCR's Computer Science Department.

Academic Background

B.S. Animal Science with honors, Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Ithaca, NY. in Animal Science, 8/2010 – 5/2014
Thesis: Colony inheritance and fights to the death among sisters in the social huntsman spider, Delena cancerides (in prep.)

Research Experience

Research Assistant, Biodiversity Research Institute Loon Chick Relocation Project, MN 8/2015 – 9/2015
Volunteer, US Fish and Wildlife Service Crazy Ant Strike Team, Johnston Atoll NWR, 11/2014 – 6/2015
Research Assistant, Biodiversity Research Institute Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation, NY, 5/2014 – 10/2014
Undergraduate Researcher, Dr. Linda S. Rayor Spider Lab, Cornell University, NY, 1/2012 – 5/2014
Research Assistant, Christine Goodale Soil Lab, Cornell University, NY, 1/2013 – 5/2014
Research Assistant, The Loon Project, WI, 5/2013 – 8/2013

Fellowships and Funding

UCR Chancellor’s Distinguished Fellowship (2016-2019)
Alberta Conservaton Association Grant in Biodiversity (2017-2019)
NRT Integrated Computational Entomology (NICE) Fellowship (2017-2020)