Yolanda Chen, Professor

  • Ph.D. Dept. of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley, 2001
  • B.S. Natural Resource Management, Rutgers University, NJ 1995

    I am interested in how historical and contemporary human activities shape the ecology and evolution of insect as pests. My broad goals are to understand how to “farm with nature” within a globalized world. I am interested in basic questions, such as how has the origin of agriculture shaped insect-plant interactions, as well as applied questions on exploiting insect ecology and evolution to improve pest control. I am particularly interested in how insects have been able to evolve so rapidly and successfully to anthropogenic change. I have a wide array of interests including: pest evolution, insect-plant interactions, crop domestication, evolutionary ecology, population genetics, phylogeography, epigenetics, genomics, insecticide resistance, and how biodiversity is shaped within the Anthropocene.

Outside of science, I love to eat, cook, garden, explore the outdoors, and travel.

Other Languages: Mandarin Chinese (Fluent-oral, aural), Spanish (Intermediate)
C. V.
12/30/19 Interview on “People Behind the Science”

Postdoctoral Researcher

Dr. Joe Gunn, Postdoctoral Research
Ph. D. University of Missouri





Graduate Students

Erika Bueno, M. Sc., Ph. D. candidate

I grew up in California where I attended San Francisco State University (SFSU) for my B.S. degree in Biology. I then joined the lab of Dr. Chris Moffatt at SFSU, where I obtained a M.S. in Ecology and Evolution. My master’s project examined genetic mechanisms behind behavioral manipulation in honey bees parasitized by the parasitoid fly, Apocephalus borealis. My interests involve addressing questions on adaptive evolution and stress in agricultural insect pests. For my PhD, I will be examining the role of environmental stress on epigenetic modifications to investigate the evolution of insecticide resistance in an important crop pest, the Colorado potato beetle.

Andrea Campbell, Ph. D. student

I see food insecurity as one of the world’s pressing social and economic issues that will only intensify with population growth, degrading land use practices, and climate change.  This is the broader issue that I hope to serve throughout my career and is a driving force behind where I find myself today. I am principally interested in plant-insect interactions and I enjoy exploring the possibility of exploiting natural interactions such as host location and mating for ecologically-based pest management solutions in agriculture. My thesis will examine patterns of emergence and mating in swede midge to maximize the efficacy of pheromone mating disruption technologies.

Blair Christensen, MPH, Ph.D student 

I received my BSES in Entomology from the University of Georgia and my MPH in Biostatistics from Georgia State University. Before joining the lab, I worked as high school science teacher in La Nucia, Spain and as an epidemiologist for the Georgia Department of Health. I am studying the intersection of stress, hormesis, and epigenetics in agroecosystems. When I’m not spending time with the Colorado Potato Beetle, I enjoy sci-fi/horror, writing, arts, and being outdoors. 

Alex Kissonergis, Ph. D. student

I attended the University of Wyoming, where I received a B.S. in Biology. From a young age, I’ve been fascinated with how organisms adapt and change. My scientific interests have since been refined to revolve around the rapid evolution of pest insects. As part of the IAEL, I work with the Colorado Potato Beetle to address these interests. Outside of my work in the lab you can generally find me skiing, mountaineering, and enjoying the wilderness.

<a href="http://Patrick Shafer ” data-wplink-url-error=”true”>Patrick Shafer, Ph. D. student in Food Systems

Patrick Shafer is a Food Systems Ph.D. student at the University of Vermont. He recently completed his Food Systems MS at UVM, during which he researched farming and eating insects can help develop sustainable and circular food systems. His MS research studied the growth performance of mealworms reared on pre-consumer food waste from university foodservice, and the perceptions of insect-based foods among university students. For his PhD research, he plans to study the relationship between students’ perceptions of edible insects and the “terroir” effect of different regional pre-consumer university food wastes on mealworm nutritional composition, flavor profile, and baking characteristics. He welcomes transdisciplinary collaboration and I encourage anyone interested in working together to get in touch!

Jorge A. Ruiz-Arocho, Ph. D. candidate

Broadly, my interests are centered around entomology, arthropodology, and ecology. Specifically, I’m interested in understanding how  anthropogenic effects mold arthropod populations and biodiversity. I am studying how crop domestication in Mexico has shaped the insect biodiversity associated with these plants. My studies will be focused on wild progenitors and cultivated crops and the insects associated with them across multiple Mexican states. Also, I’m interested in plant-insect interactions and arthropod taxonomy, biogeography, and food webs. My hobbies include reading, drawing, cooking, hiking and everything else that includes nature.

Undergraduate Researchers

Sam Bjorklun, B.S. student 

I am a senior majoring in Environmental Sciences minoring in Japanese at the University of Vermont. I am currently working on my Honors Thesis project focusing on the epigenetic mechanisms behind cross-tolerance in the Colorado Potato Beetle. I am broadly interested in the mechanisms behind rapid evolution in insect pests and its implications in agroecosystems. In my free time, I enjoy learning languages and traveling.



Graduate Alumni

Jatinder Singh Sangha (Ph. D. 2007, University of Philippines Los Baños)
Research scientist Crop Physiologist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.



Vic collecting L. decemlineata beetles in MexicoVictor Izzo (Ph. D. 2013)
Lecturer, Dept. of Plant and Soil Sciences



GemelleGemelle Brion (M.Sc. 2015)
Soil Conservationist, USDA NRCS, Eastern Shore, MD



Tara_picTara Madsen-Steigmeyer (Ph. D. 2014; advised by Prof. Neil Tsutsui, UC Berkeley)



RachelRachel Schattman (Ph.D. 2016; advised by Prof. Ernesto Mendez)
Assistant Professor of Sustainable Agriculture, University of Maine



Chase2Chase Stratton, (Ph.D. 2018)
Assistant Professor, Delaware State University



Version 3Elisabeth Hodgdon,  (Ph.D. 2019)
Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Cooperative Extension
CCE Clinton County



Dave Landay, (M.S. in Complex Systems 2019)
Data Scientist
Optimal Solutions, Inc.



Sam Zonay, (M.S. in Complex Systems 2019)
Data Scientist
Rotunda Solutions





Kristiaprofilen Brevik, (Ph.D.  2020)
Lecturer, Rubenstein School, University of Vermont
Artist –




Undergraduate Alumni (Thesis students)
Ethan Dean (2021, BS Biology) Ph. D. student, Dept. of Entomology, Penn State University
Emma Schoeppner (2019, BS Ecological Agriculture) MS student, Dept. of Entomology, North Carolina State University
Kathryn Jacobs (2018, BS Ecological Agriculture)
Justine Samuel (2018, BS Biology, Honors) Ph. D. student at University of Cincinnati
Paolo Filho (2017, BS Ecological Agriculture)
Maggie Williams (2017, BS Environmental Science)
Ross Pillischer (2017, BS Biology) Veterinary School at University of Pennsylvania
Sean Quigley (2020, BS Microbial and Molecular Genetics)
Phoebe Judge (2017, BS Environmental Sciences, Columbia University)
Samuel Zuckerman (2016, BS Environmental Science) Ph. D. student at the University of New Hampshire
Anna Grubb (2015, BS Environmental Science)
Hannah Eiseman (2014, BS Zoology) M. S. Student at Tufts University
Danielle Bartolanzo (2014, BS Zoology) MPh, SAS Data Analyst/Statistican II at The Henry M.Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine
Joe Labrum (2012, BS Biology)
Monica Beers (2012, BS Environmental Science)
Jordan Armstrong (2012, BS Biology)
Nathan Harriman Mercer, BS Biology 2010.
Michelle Gorayeb, BS Biology 2009.

Andrei Alyokhin, University of Maine, USA
Julio Bernal, Texas A & M University, USA
Betty Benrey, Université de Neuchâtel, Switzerland
Angelica Cíbrian-Jaramillo, LANGEBIO-CINVESTAV, Mexico
Rebecca Hallett, University of Guelph, Canada
Christy Hoepting, Cornell University Cooperative Extension, USA
Leena Lindstrӧm, University of Jyväskylä, Finland
Stephanie McKay, University of Vermont, USA
Cesar Rodriguez-Saona, Rutgers University, USA
Sean Schoville, University of Wisconsin, USA