I have a broad-based research program in the areas of animal behavior, ecology, population genetics, and neuroethology. Specifically, I am interested in the evolution of cooperation, sociality and dispersal strategies. My model organism is The northern social spider Anelosimus studiosus. This is among the most dynamic social systems found in nature, in that the spiders vary in their degree of sociality in response to latitude and microhabitat. I am exploiting the variation in this system to develop a deeper understanding of the selective forces involved with, and the mechanisms underneath, the evolution of sociality. Our group takes a multifaceted approach to this work including: computer modeling, field and laboratory experimentation, and using molecular markers to analyze the genetic structure of populations. We are also now beginning to explore the effects of various neurotransmitters on spider behavior. I am also interested in science education, developing interactive inquiry-based simulations to illustrate ecological principles.
W. David FordGraduate Student
I graduated from Western Carolina University with a B.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in 2011. I worked at a couple outdoor education centers until I got a job at the Great Plains Zoo in 2013 as an education specialist. I stayed there until I came to ETSU last January. I work in Dr. Hiatt’s lab and my research interests include online learning and ecology/evolution education. Outside of school I enjoy hiking, swimming, and running, and I live with my cat and savanna monitor.