Dr. Jennifer Maxwell


Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology

Office: Science Center 58
Phone: (319) 352-8385
FAX: (319) 352-8606
Email: jennifer.maxwell@wartburg.edu


Mail address
Biology Department 
Wartburg College 
100 Wartburg Blvd.
Waverly, Iowa, USA 50677

Advising Expertise
Graduate-level ecology
Industry (Agricultural, biotechnology)

Courses Taught
BI 151 Ecosystems, Cells and Evolution
BI 152 Form and Function
BI 455 Methods of Biological Research
BI 456 Student Research
BI 461 Science Seminar

Research Interests

My research focuses on multispecies interactions, and I am especially interested in answering questions about plant-insect interactions. Much of the plant and insect diversity we see today has resulted from specialized plant-herbivore interactions. Many plants have evolved fascinating defenses to protect themselves from insects that feed on them, and in turn, insects have evolved mechanisms to avoid and overcome plant defenses. My research focuses on the nature of these interactions.

I am also interested in understanding interactions between agricultural insect pests and their plant hosts, including crops genetically engineered to produce toxins that can kill insects (Bt crops), which are being increasingly utilized here in Iowa, and in much of the world. Often, a third trophic level (for example, an insect or other organism that kills insect pests) can influence interactions between an insect pest and its plant host, and I am interested in understanding the ecological interactions among these three trophic levels.

Some specific research questions are: What determines host use for certain insect species? For example, insect herbivores have thousands of plants from which to choose; why do some consume just one plant species (specialists), while others feed on many plant species (generalists)? Also, what are some defenses that plants have against specialist insects that feed on them, and what are the mechanisms insects use to overcome and avoid plant defenses? How do natural enemies of insects (particularly insect-killing nematodes or fungi) affect interactions between an insect and its plant host? Can Bt crops and natural enemies work together to manage important insect pests?

I look forward to working with students to answer these research questions!