Naomi E. Pierce, ESA Fellow (2011)

Dr. Naomi E. Pierce is the Hessel Professor of Biology at Harvard University's Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, and is also curator of Lepidoptera in the Museum of Comparative Zoology. She received her B.S. in biology from Yale University and her Ph.D. from Harvard.

During her dissertation she made groundbreaking contributions to the field of insect behavioral ecology by looking at the symbiosis between species and the effect this has on species interactions and diversification. Since then, she has contributed to the field of entomology and evolutionary biology while always keeping insects as the focus of her research.

She and her colleagues in the Pierce Lab study the behavioral ecology of species interactions, including insect–plant associations, symbioses between ants and other organisms, and endosymbioses between ants and their bacterial associates. This has ranged from field studies measuring the costs and benefits of symbioses between ants and other organisms, to genetic analyses of biochemical signaling pathways underlying interactions between plants, pathogens, and insects. This research is relevant to both biomedical models of host defense/pathogen virulence, and agricultural models of insect/plant coevolution.

She has also been involved in reconstructing the evolutionary ‘Tree of life’ of insects such as ants, bees, and butterflies, and in using molecular phylogenies to make comparative studies of life history evolution and biogeographical distributions.

Dr. Pierce has over 80 publications, and has mentored numerous graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and undergraduate students. She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a senior fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows, and she has received prizes such as a Fulbright Fellowship and a MacArthur award.

(updated July, 2011)