Curriculum Vitae


Postdoctoral Fellow, 2004; Integrative Biology, University of Texas at Austin; Ulrich Mueller, faculty mentor.

Ph.D 2001; Ph.D., Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona; “Evolutionary genetics of gall-forming aphids: Behavioral and population processes”; Nancy Moran, thesis advisor

M.Sc.1994; M.Sc., Department of Biological Sciences (with emphasis in behavioral ecology), Simon Fraser University; Larry Dill, thesis advisor

B.A.1989; Department of Zoology, University of Georgia

Academic appointments

Associate Professor, Vanderbilt University, 2011 to present.

Assistant Professor, Vanderbilt University, 2004-2011.

External funding

March of Dimes, The March of Dimes Prematurity Research Collaborative of Ohio: The Genomics of Pre-Term Birth (Dr. Lou Muglia, PI); 2013-2018.

National Science Foundation, IOS-1147033, The transition to sociality at the plant-insect interface; 2012-2016.

Southeastern Conference Travel Grant, Collaborative research on sterol physiology in natural populations of aphids. Dr. Spencer Behmer (co-PI), Texas A & M, College Station. 2014.

National Science Foundation, Research Experience for Undergraduates, supplementary award, The transition to sociality at the plant-insect interface; 2013.

National Science Foundation, Research Experience for Undergraduates, supplementary award, The transition to sociality at the plant-insect interface; 2012.

National Science Foundation, Research Opportunity Award, Collaborative Research: Adaptive radiation of a gall midge-fungus mutualism in a multitrophic context; 2010-2012.

National Science Foundation, DEB EPE-0614483, Collaborative Research: Adaptive radiation of a gall midge-fungus mutualism in a multitrophic context; 2006-2010.

National Science Foundation, IOB-0417006, Biology of intruders & cheating in social aphids; 2004-2008.

National Science Foundation, Starter Grant, (with DBI #0102094): The Evolutionary Genetics of a Vector-Borne Zoonotic Pathogen in Natural Populations: Bartonella in the Coastal Plain and Barrier Islands of the Southeastern United States. (2004)

National Science Foundation, Postdoctoral Fellowship in Microbial Biology, DBI #0102094: “Evolutionary patterns and processes in symbiotic fungi associated with fungus-growing ants.”2002-2004.

Intramural funding

Vanderbilt University Central Discovery Grant, Soldiers who want to be monarchs: The role of plant chemistry in social evolution; 2012-2014.

Vanderbilt University Central Discovery Grant, Spatial and molecular ecology of conditional mutualisms between ants and membracids; 2005-2007.

Awards and honors

Jeffrey Nordhaus Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, Vanderbilt University, 2013

Professional societies

Society for the Study of Evolution               Entomological Society of Entomology

International Symbiosis Society                  International Union for the Study of Social Insects


BSCI 3239 Evolution of Behavior. I developed this course in 2016 (3 credits). Both undergraduates and graduate students enrolled in 2016, with an enrollment of 21 students.

BSCI 3238, Ecology. I have been the instructor in Ecology (3 credits) since 2005. The course has a typical enrollment of about 30 upper-level, and in addition to biological sciences, draws from several majors across campus. In 2016, I will begin teaching a course on the evolution of behavior, in lieu of Ecology.

BSCI 1511, Introductory Biology. I have shared a section of Introductory Biology (3 credits) since 2007. The course has a typical enrollment of about 200+ students, most of whom are freshmen and sophomores, many of whom are interested in careers in medicine and health.

Interdisciplinary Graduate Program FOCUS. This is a graduate level course that involves discussing key papers in molecular and cell biology, and genetics.

BSCI 3965, Undergraduate Seminar. For several semesters, I taught an undergraduate seminar (1 credit) in conservation biology, covering such topics as climate change and river and wetland ecology. I recently taught a collaborative seminar on comparative social evolution with Dr. Dustin Rubenstein (Columbia), Dr. Eileen Lacey (Berkeley), and Dr. Jennifer Fewell (Arizona State). This course met simultaneously at the four universities, with students working collaboratively across each. The culmination was a video lecture to the entire group by Dr. Bert Holldobler.

BSCI 6336, Graduate Seminar in Ecology and Evolution. This course is taught on a rotating basis each semester by faculty in the ecology and evolution group in Biological Sciences. It involves readings, presentations, and discussions by graduate students and faculty on current topics and literature. In 2012, I organized a special version of this seminar, and recruited researchers from nearby universities to come each week to speak to a broad group of researchers and students throughout the university with interests in ecology and evolution.

Vanderbilt Summer Academy, 2011 & 2013. This is a week-long ecology field course for high school students.

Various guest lectures in courses ranging from Vector Biology to the Neurobiology of Behavior

Graduate students and postdocs

Michelle Moon (2014), Stephanie Birnbaum (2014), Jibril Hirbo (postdoc; 2013), Sarah Lawson (2009), Cassidy Cobbs (2009), Eric Janson (2004), Dan Erickson (2007)


Dan O’Connell (2006) Allison Bray (2006) Lauren Eller (2006) Julia Brown (2007) Charles Hassett (2007) Katie Grogan (2008) Emily Peeden (2008) Jessica Mezzanote (2010) Jessie Cox (2010) Elizabeth Wood (2011) Robin Frede (2011) Brittany Pidgeon (2011) Natalie Christian (2012) Hayden Hill (2012) Heather Estby (2013) Andrew Legan (2014) Max Kushner (2015) Joan Coker (2015) Emily Neil (2015) Perry Belcher (2016) Catie Mitchell (2017) Daniel Shaykevich(2018)

Recent publications

Abbot, P. Defense in social insects. Annual Review of Entomology.

Birnbaum SL & Abbot P. Gene expression and plant-insect interactions. Trends in Ecology and Evolution

Capra JA, Abbot P, & Rokas A. The influence of evolutionary history on human health and disease. Nature Reviews Genetics

Birnbaum SL, Rinker DC, & Abbot P. 2018. maintaining biological cultures and measuring gene expression in Aphis nerii: A Non-model System for plant-insect interactions. J. Vis. Exp. (138), e58044, doi:10.3791/58044

Eidem HR, Steenwyk J, Wisecaver J, Capra JA, Abbot P, & Rokas A. integRATE: a desirability-based data integration framework for the prioritization of candidate genes across heterogeneous omics and its application to preterm birth. BMC Medical Genomics, in press.

Abbot P & Rokas A. 2018. Preterm Birth. Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science. Springer, in press.

Fewell J & Abbot P. 2018. Insect sociality. IN: Insect Behavior: From Mechanisms to Ecological and Evolutionary Consequences. Córdoba-Aguilar A, González-Tokman D & González-Santoyo I (eds), Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Abbot P, Tooker J, Lawson SP. 2018. Chemical ecology and sociality in aphids: Opportunities and directions. Journal of Chemical Ecology, 16,

Heath J, Abbot P, & Stireman JO. 2018. Adaptive divergence in a defense symbiosis driven from the top down. The American Naturalist 192, E21-E36

Birnbaum SSL & Abbot P. 2018. Insect adaptations towards plant toxins in milkweed-herbivore systems – a review. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata, 58, 579-589

Moon JM, Aronoff DM, Capra JA, Abbot P, Rokas A. 2018. Genes involved in human sialic acid biology do not harbor signatures of recent positive selection. G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics g3.200035.2018–11.

Abbot P & Chapman TC. 2017. Sociality in aphids & thrips. IN: Rubenstein D & Abbot P. (eds) Comparative Social Evolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Rubenstein D & Abbot P. 2017. The evolution of social evolution. IN: Rubenstein D & Abbot P. (eds) Comparative Social Evolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rubenstein D & Abbot P. 2017. Social synthesis: Opportunities for comparative social evolution. IN: Rubenstein D & Abbot P. (eds). Comparative Social Evolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Abbot P & Capra JA. 2017. What is a placental mammal anyway? eLife, 6:e30994.

Abbot P & Rokas A. 2017. Quick guide: Mammalian Pregnancy. Current Biology 27, R123–R138

Birnbaum SSL, Rinker D, Gerardo N, & Abbot P. 2017. Transcriptional profile and differential fitness across a cardenolide gradient in a specialist milkweed insect. Molecular Ecology, 26, 6742-6741.

Eidem H, McGary KL, Capra JA, Abbot P, & Rokas A. 2017. The transformative potential of an integrative approach to pregnancy. Placenta, 57: 204–215.

Lawson SP, Sigle L, Legan A, Lind A, Mezzanote JN, Honegger WH, & Abbot P. 2017. An alternative pathway to eusociality: Exploring the molecular and functional basis of fortress defense. Evolution, 71, 1986-1998.

Eidem H., Rinker DC, Ackerman WE IV, Buhimschi IA, Buhimschi CS, Dunn-Fletcher C, Kallapur SG, Pavlicev M, Muglia LJ, Abbot P, & Rokas A. 2016. Comparing human and macaque placental transcriptomes to disentangle preterm birth pathology from gestational age effects. Placenta: 41, 71-82.

Kim, M., Cooper BA, Venkat R, Phillips JB, Eidem HR, Hirbo J, Nutakki S, Williams SM, Muglia LJ, Capra JA, Petren K, Abbot P, Rokas A, McGary KL. 2016. GEneSTATION 1.0: a synthetic resource of diverse evolutionary and functional genomic data for studying the evolution of pregnancy-associated tissues and phenotypes. Nucleic Acids Research 44, Database issue: D908-916.

Abbot P. 2015. The physiology and genomics of social transitions in aphids. In: Zayed A, Kent CF, editors. Genomics, Physiology and Behaviour of Social Insects. Vol. 48. Advances in Insect Physiology. Elsevier. pp. 163–188.

Eidem HR, Ackerman WE, McGary KL, Abbot P, Rokas A. 2015. Gestational tissue transcriptomics in term and preterm human pregnancies: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Medical Genomics 8, 529–13.

Phillips JB, Abbot P, Rokas A. 2015. Is preterm birth a human specific syndrome? Evolutionary Medicine and Public Health 2015:136-48.

Hirbo J, Eidem HR, Rokas A, Abbot P. 2015. Integrating diverse types of genomic data to identify genes that underlie adverse pregnancy phenotypes.  PLoS ONE 10: e0144155.

Miller DG, Lawson SP, Rinker DC, Estby H, Abbot P. 2015. The origin and genetic differentiation of the socially parasitic aphid Tamalia inquilinus. Molecular Ecology 24, 5751–5766.

Abbot P. 2014. Ecological Genomics. Oxford Online Bibliography: Ecology.

Lawson SP, Christian N, & Abbot P. 2014. Comparative analysis of the biodiversity of fungal endophytes in insect-induced galls and surrounding foliar tissue . Fungal Diversity 66, 89–97.

Lawson SP, Legan AW, Graham C, & Abbot P. 2014. Comparative phenotyping across a social transition in aphids. Animal Behaviour 96, 117–125.

Cobbs C., Heath J, Stireman JO, & Abbot P. 2013. The evolution of laterally-transferred genes for carotenoid biosynthesis in gall midges. Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution, 68, 221-228.

Stireman JO, Devlin H, & Abbot P. 2012. Rampant host and defensive phenotype associated diversification in a goldenrod gall midge. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 25, 1991-2004.

Erickson DM, Wood EA, Oliver KM, Billick I, & Abbot P. 2012. The effect of ants on the population dynamics of a protective symbiont of aphids, Hamiltonella defensa. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 105, 447-453.

Abbot P. 2011. A closer look at the spatial architecture of aphid clones. Molecular Ecology 20, 4587-4589.

Cafaro MJ, Poulsen M, Little AEF, Price SL, Gerardo NM, Wong B, Stuart AE, Larget B, Abbot P, and Currie CR. 2011. Specificity in the symbiotic association between fungus-growing ants and protective Pseudonocardia bacteria. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 278, 1814-1822.

Books/Edited Volumes

Abbot P & Kocher S. (editors). COIS Social insects (2019): A major transition in the 21st Century. Current Opinions in Insect Science. forthcoming.

Rubenstein DR & Abbot P. 2017. Comparative Social Evolution. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK

Recents talks & presentations

Taking stock: Comparative social evolution. 2017 Entomological Society of America meeting

Transcriptional profile and differential fitness across a cardenolide gradient in a specialist milkweed insect. 2017 Symposium on Insect-Plant Interactions

Detoxification and sequestration in a specialist aphid: functional mechanisms and eco-evolutionary patterns: ecological specialization and expression plasticity. Gordon Research Conference. Plant-Insect Interactions.

Division of labor from 50,000 evolutionary feet. , 2015 meeting of the Entomological Society of America, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Sociality at the plant-insect interface, University of Southern Mississippi, Department of Biological Sciences.

Predation, polymorphism and diversifying selection in a defense symbiosis. Gordon Research Conference, Animal Microbe Symbioses

The evolutionary synthesis of human pregnancy, 5th Annual Biennial Symposium, Preventing Prematurity: Establishing a Network for Innovation and Discovery. March of Dimes & Burroughs Welcome Fund, Newport Beach, California

Sociality at the plant-insect interface, Columbia University, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology

Sociality at the plant-insect interface, 2014 meeting of the Entomological Society of America, Portland, Oregon

Sociality at the plant-insect interface, Simon Fraser University, Department of Biological Sciences

The transition to sociality at the plant-insect interface. University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, Department of Biology

Viruses and the functional toolkit in social evolution, 2014 meeting of the International Union for the Study of Social Insects, Cairns, Australia

Sociality at the plant-insect interface. Occidental College, Department of Biology

Mutualisms between animals and microbes, and the shape of evolution. University of Memphis, Department of Biological Sciences

Professional and university service

  • Vice-Chair, Department of Biological Sciences, 2015 to present.
  • Chair, Faculty Council, College of Arts & Sciences, 2018 to present.
  • Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of Biological Sciences, 2017 to present.
  • Chair, Curriculum Committee, Department of Biological Sciences, 2015 to present.
  • A & S Faculty Council, Vanderbilt University, 2017 to present
  • Search Committee, Science & Engineering Library Director, 2017
  • Chair, Graduate Policy Committee, Biological Sciences, Vanderbilt University 2009-2013
  • Departmental Seminar Committee, Biological Sciences, Vanderbilt University, 2005-2008
  • Faculty search committees, Department of Biological Sciences, Vanderbilt University, 2006, 2007, & 2013/4
  • Organizer, Annual Darwin Day at Vanderbilt, 2011-2014
  • Speaker, Darwin Day Dinner, Vanderbilt University Commons, 2012 & 2013
  • Organizer & developer, Workshop on biotechnology for secondary school instructors and non-biologists; Vanderbilt University and Nashville Metro Schools, Nashville, TN
  • Bugs for 3rd graders! Una Elementary School, Nashville, Tennessee
  • Member, Junior Advisory Research Committee, College of the Arts and Sciences, Vanderbilt University, 2012.
  • Panelist, Program in Career Development, Vanderbilt University, 2014
  • Many graduate thesis committees and job search committees
  • Panelist, National Science Foundation, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
  • Working group member, 2010-2013, National Evolutionary Synthesis Center
  • Associate editor, Evolution, 2007-2009.
  • Chair, Board of Directors, Highlands Biological Station, Highlands, North Carolina
  • Co-organizer, Member Symposium: Social evolution in other taxa. Annual meeting of the Entomological Society of America, Indianapolis, Indiana, 2010.
  • Co-organizer, Member Symposium: Ecological and Evolutionary Origins of Sociality: Connecting Commonalities of Social Behavior Across Diverse Insect Taxa. Annual meeting of the Entomological Society of America, Austin, Texas, 2013

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