Welcome to the Parasitic Behavioral Manipulation Lab (the PBM Lab) at UCF!
The researchers in our lab all have one major thing in common: our love for scientific discovery, biology and the natural world around us.
We are especially fascinated by parasites that manipulate the behavior of animals such that they become the perfect vehicles for the parasite to spread. Our work centers around discovering which genes and molecules are involved in such behavioral manipulation. This exposes the parasite’s strategies and the compounds they produce. As we unravel how parasites manipulate their host’s brain to change their behavior, we also hope to learn more about the regulation of “normal” behaviors and how sickness behaviors emerge.
The organisms that are the main subjects of study in our lab are the Florida carpenter ant (Camponotus floridanus) and the fungus that turns them into so-called zombie ants: Ophiocordyceps camponoti-floridani. These real-life zombies live right on our doorstep here in Central Florida, which allows us to study them in the lab and in nature.
We combine molecular microbiology, functional genetics, and genomics, with behavioral analyses, evolutionary ecology, and natural history.
This integrative approach makes for a vibrant lab in which researchers from various backgrounds and with a variety of research interests can chase their ambitions. Our lab is an inclusive workplace where everyone can feel comfortable being their authentic selves. We value our differences and believe that learning and sharing ideas across race, gender, age, religion, identity, nationality and experiences makes us all better scientists and human beings.
Photo by: Miles Zhang