People: prospective students

Derek S. Sikes

Curator of Insects
Assistant Professor of Entomology
University of Alaska Museum
907 Yukon Drive
Fairbanks, AK 99775-6960

email: ffdss 'at'



Derek S. Sikes, Ph.D. - Principal Investigator Departmental webpage ~ Curriculum Vitae ~ vCard

People of the Sikes Lab

Prospective Students

NOTE: I have moved to the University of Alaska, Fairbanks (June 2006). If you are interested in working with me you will have to apply to the University of Alaska Graduate Program through the Department of Biology and Wildlife. This LINK will take you there.

Students interested in conducting graduate work in my laboratory should have at a minimum an Entomology background, ideally with some training (and strong interest) in Systematics. Prospective students must have a commitment to a specimen-based approach to research questions if they are to gain the most from our core strengths as a university museum.

If you already have a good project (or idea for a project) involving beetle systematics contact me to determine how well it would fit into my research program. I encourage students to develop their own passioniate interests. Potential projects include:

1) Affect of rats on the arthropod fauna of various Aleutian Islands.

2) An investigation into speciation in the genus Nicrophorus using morphological, behavioral, and molecular data and focused on pairs of closely related sister species (the first such pair occurs in California, Arizona, & New Mexico). This project would require a doctoral student.

3) A test of co-evolution between Nicrophorus species and their phoretic mites using morphological and molecular data. This project could be a short study looking at the marginatus species group and specifically testing contradictory molecular vs morphological hypotheses regarding the evolution of N. carolinus. Longer-term, larger projects could expand to include additional species groups and will inevitably require describing many new species of mites. A pre-requisite for this work is training in mite taxonomy.

4) A test of the hypothesis that one lineage of Nicrophorus (N. carolinus) has experienced positive selection, minimally for the COII gene. This project is related to #3 above and could form a subset of a PhD project, or be an independent short project.

5) The phylogeny to date indicates that the apparently aposematic coloration of the elytra (red/orange markings on a black background) has been lost repeatedly throughout the evolution of the subfamily Nicrophorinae. To date there is no good explanation for these losses although hypotheses include thermoregulatory advantages and possible influences from mimicry complexes with other unpalatable all-black beetles.

6) Revisionary work with a moderately sized genus. This would require mastery of traditional taxonomic methods and molecular phylogenetics.

If you are interested in these or similar projects please contact me at dsikes 'at'