My primary interest in science is animal behavior. Not only is curiosity about animal behavior what drives my research program, it is what I enjoy most to teach and to mentor students in. I am interested in behavior at all levels of analysis, from mechanism and ontogeny to function and evolution.
I have a long-standing interest in the dynamics of reproduction in the context of coevolved, often highly-specialized, host-insect associations. Such associations permit strong inferences to be made about how reproductive behavior is adjusted in response to temporal and spatial variation in the host resource, even under field conditions.
One mechanism by which animals track variation in resources in functional ways is learning. I have used butterflies, tephritid fruit flies and parasitic wasps to assess how learning shapes oviposition behavior in response to variation in the host resource. Our lab has recently extended its work on learning to nectar and pollen foraging in bees. Our work on learning of floral cues is allowing us to contrast the role of learning in a plant-pollinator mutualism with its role in the antagonistic interaction typical of a plant-herbivore association.
My research is primarily basic in scope but I am interested in the application of behavioral knowledge to society. In our lab, application of behavioral knowledge has been made most strongly in the areas of pest management, conservation, and education outreach. A new project on the thermal ecology of a butterfly-host association is providing glimpses into the role that dynamical processes in reproduction by a member of a species interaction may play in the interaction's response to climate change.
Specific projects are described more fully on the Projects page.
Daniel Papaj, Ph.D
Professor and Associate Head
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Biosciences West 514
1041 E. Lowell
University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ 85721
Tel: (520) 621-8988
FAX: (520) 621-9190