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Rick Overson, Ph.D.

Rick Overson
Postdoctoral Research Associate
(847) 835-8397
Curriculum Vitae: 
Research Interests: 
  • Speciation
  • Population genetics
  • Phylogenetics
  • Ecology
  • Behavioral Ecology
  • Insect-plant interactions

My research seeks to understand the genetic and ecological forces which drive patterns of diversity and variation in nature. I utilize approaches in behavioral ecology, ecology, and genetics/genomics to understand both speciation, and the maintenance of intraspecific variation in natural populations. My previous research focused on variation in social behavior in seed-harvester ants of the genus Pogonomyrmex, which are native to the southwestern US. Currently, as part of the Landscapes of Linalool project, I am exploring the fitness consequences of interactions among plants and insects and how those interactions drive population variation and speciation. Evening primroses (Onagraceae) are a species-rich group containing many night-blooming flowers which are often pollinated by moths, as well as other species which are pollinated by bees. Pollinators are attracted to floral scent (e.g. linalool), but potentially so are moths from the genus Mompha which are specialist parasites of Onagraceae. Evening primroses differ in their floral scent, both intra– and interspecifically, and this variation corresponds to differences in the occurrence of pollinating and parasitic insects. Utilizing this exciting system, we ultimately seek to understand the role that floral scent variation plays in the process of speciation in both the plant and insects participants of these interactions.

Selected Publications: 
  • Overson RP, Gadau J, Clark RM, Pratt SC, and Fewell JH. 2013. Behavioral transitions with the evolution of cooperative nest founding by harvester ant queens. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. DOI: 10.1007/s00265-013-1618-2.
  • Johnson RA, Overson RP & Moreau CS. 2013. A new species of seed-harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex hoelldobleri (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), from the Mohave and Sonoran deserts of North America. Zootaxa 3646(3):201-227. DOI:10.11646/zootaxa.3646.3.1
  • Smith CD, Zimin A, Holt C, ...Overson RP (33/50)..., and Tsutsui ND. 2011. Draft genome of the globally widespread and invasive Argentine Ant (Linepithema humile). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI:10.1073/pnas.1008617108.
  • Smith CR, Smith CD, Robertson HM, ...Overson RP (35/45)..., and Gadau J. 2011. Draft genome of the red harvester ant Pogonomyrmex barbatus. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108 (14):5667-72.
  • Suen G, Teiling C, Li L, ...Overson RP (30/49)..., and Currie CR. 2011. The genome sequence of the leaf-cutter ant Atta cephalotes reveals insights into its obligate symbiotic lifestyle. PLoS Genetics 7 (2):587-604.