B.S. Entomology, 2013, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX
Elida Espinoza is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Rollins Urban and Structural Entomology Facility and the Forensic Laboratory and Investigative Entomological Sciences Facility, co-advised by Dr. Roger Gold and Dr. Jeffery Tomberlin. Elida is interested in the role concomitant and environmental bacteria play in animal behavior via non-symbiotic interkingdom interactions. Her current research focuses on the behavioral ecology of the red imported fire ant (RIFA), Solenopsis invicta, in association with bacteria encountered in their environment. She is examining the possible roles of bacteria in RIFA colony structure through brood care and nestmate interactions, foraging, and necrophoric behavior. Using next-generation sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene, Elida is comparing the bacterial community found on whole RIFA organisms, namely, different castes members within the ant colony and across colonies collected from four ecoregions in Texas. In addition, Elida is studying the effect of bacterial population densities on the foraging behavior and food consumption of RIFA by conducting behavioral bioassays of RIFA colonies and various baits inoculated with increasing concentrations of swarming bacteria Proteus mirabilis.