I have broad interests in ecology and evolutionary biology and in uniting these fields to study how biological diversity is organized into communities and how it has developed over evolutionary time. My research interests span such topics as plant-insect and tri-trophic interactions, the processes of population differentiation and speciation, phylogenetic systematics, and the structure of ecological communities. My focus is primarily on insects, which, due to their immense taxonomic and ecological diversity, offer countless opportunities to examine a wide range of ecological and evolutionary questions.
I have combined approaches from a variety of fields in my studies of insect herbivores and parasitoids and their interactions. Most of this work revolves around understanding how tritrophic interactions shape the ecological niches of plant-feeding insects and how these interactions facilitate population divergence, speciation, and adaptive radiation. I have also focused on insect herbivores and parasite communities as indicators of ecological health in examining the effects of habitat fragmentation and invasive species on their diversity and abundance. I addition, I hold a deep interest in the basic task of documenting and understanding insect biodiversity. The approaches and tools I employ are broad, including field surveys and experiments, controlled laboratory experiments, molecular and morphological phylogenetics, population genetics, collection based research and statistical modeling. Although my approach tends to be focused on basic science, I am interested in how results from these studies can be applied in such fields as biological conservation and biological control of pests.
Some specific projects that I am currently involved in or developing include:
- Adaptive radiation in Asteromyia gall midges -- A collaborative NSF funded project (with P. Abbot, Vanderbilt U.) aimed at examining the ecological causes and evolutionary patterns of adaptive radiation. We are using the association of Asteromyia gall midges on their goldenrod host plants as a focal study system for this work due to the widespread, fine-scale host associated genetic differentiation in this system and the complex multi-trophic interactions that are likely shaping this diversification. This work involves field surveys and field experiments, lab experiments, insect systematic and molecular phylogenetic and phylogeographic methods. In addition, we are currently beginning to employ genomic analyses to understand adaptive divergence in this system.
- Diversity and community structure of caterpillars and parasitoids in the Ecuadorian Andes - A collaborative project with Lee Dyer (Tulane U.) and many others aimed at documenting the diversity of Lepidoptera and their parasitoids in a montane tropical cloud forest, and understanding their tritrophic interactions and compartmentalization into food webs. My focus is on the diversity, taxonomy, and host associations of the tachinid fly parasitoids.
- The effects of woodland fragmentation on tritrophic interactions: plant-caterpillar-parasitoid interactions in the Midwest US – An ongoing project examining the effects of forest fragmentation and invasive honeysuckle on the diversity and dynamics of insect communities in southwest Ohio.
- Molecular Phylogeny and evolution of the Tachinidae – I have a keen interest in the phylogenetic relationships of Tachinidae, and in the evolution of their host associations and attack strategies. I have been accumulating taxa for several years in order to create a database of mtDNA sequences that can be used to aid in species identification and delineation and to acquire DNA for a larger scale multigene phylogeny of tachinid flies (with J.E. O’Hara, CNC; J.K. Moulton, U. Tenn.). This phylogeny will be used to revise current classifications and assess the evolution of host-associated traits.
Stireman, J.O. III, Devlin, H.P., Carr, T.G., Abbot, P. 2010. Evolutionary diversification of the gall midge genus Asteromyia (Cecidomyiidae) in a multitrophic ecological context. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 54:194-210.
Stireman, J.O. III, Dyer, L.A., Greeney, H.F. 2009. Species richness and host associations of Lepidoptera-attacking Tachinidae in the mid-elevation Ecuadorian Andes. Journal of Insect Science 9:39.
Stireman, J.O. III, Abbot, P., Janson E.M., Carr, T.G., Devlin, H. 2008. Evolutionary radiation of Asteromyia carbonifera (Diptera: Cecidomyiidae) gall morphotypes on the goldenrod Solidago altissima (Asteraceae). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 95:840-858.
Janson, E.M., Stireman, J.O., III, Singer, M.S., and Abbot, P. 2008. Perspective: Phytophagous insect-microbe mutualisms and adaptive evolutionary diversification. Evolution 62:997-1012.
Stireman, J. O. III. 2008. α and β diversity of a tachinid community over space and time. Annals of the Entomological Society of America. 101:362-370.
Halverson, K., Heard, S.B., Nason, J.D.,and J.O. Stireman, III. 2008. Differential attack on diploid, tetraploid, and hexaploid Solidago altissima L. by five insect gallmakers. Oecologia 154:755-761.
Dyer, L.A., Singer, M.S., Lill, J.T., Stireman, J.O., Gentry G.L., Marquis, R.J., Ricklefs, R.E., Greeney, H.F., Wagner, D.L., Morais, H.C., Diniz, I.R., Kursar, T.A., & Coley, P.D. 2007. Host specificity of Lepidoptera in tropical and temperate forests. Nature 448:606-700.
Stireman, J.O. III, O’Hara, J.E., and Wood, D.M. 2006. Tachinidae: Evolution, Behavior, and Ecology. Annual Review of Entomology 51:525-555.
Stireman, J.O. III, Nason, J. D. Heard, S., and Seehawer, J. 2006. Cascading host race formation in parasitoids of phytophagous insects. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B, Biological Sciences. 273:523-530.
Stireman, J.O. III, L.A. Dyer, D.H. Janzen, M.S. Singer, J.T. Lill, R.J. Marquis, R.E. Ricklefs, G.L. Gentry, W. Hallwachs, P.D. Coley, J.A. Barone, H.F. Greeney, H. Connahs, P. Barbosa, H.C. Morais, and I.R. Diniz. 2005. Climatic unpredictability and caterpillar parasitism: implications of global warming. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 102:17384-17387.
Stireman, J.O. III, Nason, J. D. and Heard, S. 2005. Host-associated genetic differentiation in phytophagous insects: general phenomenon or isolated exceptions? Evidence from a goldenrod insect community. Evolution 59:2573-2587.
Singer, M.S. and Stireman, J.O. III. 2005. The tri-trophic niche concept and adaptive radiation of phytophagous insects. Ecology Letters 8:1247-1255.