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Morrison, Colin

Colin R Morrison

Postdoctoral Fellow
Department of Integrative Biology

PhD Candidate in the Larry Gilbert Lab.

Hello! I am a PhD student in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Texas at Austin, Program in Ecology, Evolution and Behavior (EEB).

My major advisor is Dr. Larry Gilbert. In the Gilbert Lab we investigate many  topics about ecology and evolution of  plant-insect interactions.

I am from Las Vegas, NV and life is great! It has been many years since I left Las Vegas to begin the journey of finding myself an amazing career. This journey took me to Reno, NV (where I did my undergaduate studies at UNR), then to Gamboa Panama (long-term Fellowship with STRI), back to Nevada for a quick breather, and finally on to Austin TX where I am having an incredible experience at The University of Texas!


CLICK HERE for a link to my CV!





My research seeks to answer questions about  proximate mechanisms that contribute to the high levels of host plant specialization characterizing most herbivorous insects. Specifically, I want to understand how phytochemistry, natural enemies, and competition work together in predicting which specialist herbivorous insects occupy individual host plants of a given species. 

My study system compares  Heliconius caterpillars and Passiflora flea beetles across latitudes ranging from Central Texas to Costa Rica. This comparative framework allows me the opportunity to design comparative experiments that with the potential to disentangle the relative drivers of host specialization and patterns of host occupancy between two ecologically simililar, but phylogenetically distinct, groups of herbivorous insects. 

 I am fascinated with developing an expansive knowledge of natural history and the ways in which researchers can combine theory, observation, and quantitative tools to develop deeper understanding of it! My eyes are always open for interesting interactions and I am keen to  entertain the possibility of conducting investigations that explore questions that field observations raise. In other words, I am liable to get involved with interesting side projects that are tangentially similar to my primary research agenda. Current and past research that is unrelated to my primary dissertation research includes: predator-prey interactions, chemistry as driver of sympatric speciation, patterns of latitudinal diversity, transgenics and evolution of adaptive phenotypes, behavioral ecology of mate choice, myrmecology, and deep sea marine biology. 

Feel free to reach out to me if you are interested in discussing the possibility of a collaboration! 


And check out my website for more details about past and current work. 




This are my publications as of August 2020:

Morrison, C. R., Armstrong, W.A., & Gilbert, L.E. (in prep). Egg cannibalism by passion vine specialist Disonycha Chevrolat flea beetles (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Galerucinae: Alticini).

Morrison, C. R., Plowes, R. M., Jones, N.T., & Gilbert, L.E. (in press). Texas Opuntia host quality and usage by native and invasive cactus specialist moth larvae (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae): Implications for the future of North American prickly pear cactus flora.

Darragh, K., Montejo-Kovacevich, G., Kozak, K. M., Morrison, C. R., Figueiredo, C., Ready, J., Salazar, C., Linares, M., Byers, K. J. R., Merrill, R. M., McMillan, W. O., Schulz, S., & Jiggins, C. D. (2020). Species specificity and intraspecific variation in the chemical profiles of Heliconius butterflies across a large geographic range. Ecology and Evolution. https://doi.org/10.1101/573469.

Smiley, J. & Morrison C. R. (2020). Using a portable hydrogen cyanide gas meter to uncover a dynamic phytochemical landscape. Applications in Plant Sciences. (8)4, e11336. https://doi.org/10.1002/aps3.11336

Concha, C., Wallbank, R. W. R., Hanly, J. J., Fenner, J., Livraghi, L., Rivera, E. S., Paulo, D. F., Arias, C., Vargas, M., Sanjeev, M., Morrison, C. R., Tian, D., Aguirre, P., Ferrara, S., Foley, J., Pardo-Diaz, C., Salazar, C., Linares, M., Massardo, D., Counterman, B. A., Scott, M. J., Jiggins, C. D., Papa, R., Martin, A., & McMillan, W. O. (2019). Interplay between developmental flexibility and determinism in the evolution of mimetic Heliconius wing patterns. Current Biology. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2019.10.010


Morrison C. R., Aubert C., & Windsor D. M. (2019). Variation in Host Plant Usage and Diet Breadth Predict Sibling Preference and Performance in the Neotropical Tortoise Beetle Chelymorpha alternans (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Cassidinae). Environmental Entomology. 48(2), 382-394, https://doi.org/10.1093/ee/nvy194.

Morrison C. R. (2018). Predation of top predators: cane toad consumption of bullet ants in a Panamanian lowland wet forest. The Journal of Tropical Ecology. 0, 1-5, https://doi.org/10.1017/S0266467418000342.

Morrison C. R., & Windsor D. M. (2017). The life history of the neotropical Tortoise Beetles Chelymorpha alternans from the Republic of Panama. Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 111(1), 31-41. https://doi.org/10.1093/aesa/sax075.

Darragh ​K., Vanjari S., Mann F., Gonzalez M. R., Morrison C. R., Salazar C., Pardo-Diaz C., Merrill R. M., McMillan W. O, Schulz S., & Jiggins C. D. (2017). Male sex pheromone components in Heliconius butterflies released by the androconia affect female choice. PeerJ, e3953. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.3953.

Glassmire A.E., Jeffrey C.S., Forister M.L., Parchman T., Nice C.C., Jahner J.P., Wilson J., Walla T., Robinson L., Smilanich A.M., Morrison C.R., Simbaña W., Salgaje L.A., Dodson C., Miller J., Leonard M.D., & Dyer L.A. (2016) Intraspecific phytochemical variation drives population and community structure for specialist caterpillar. New Phytologist, 212: 208-219. https://doi.org/10.1111/nph.14038.

  • Special commentary from the editor: Kessler A. (2016) The geographic mosaic of plant chemistry and its

effects on community and population genetic diversity. New Phytologist, 212:8-10.  https://doi.org/10.1111/nph.14136.

Bernhard J.M., Morrison C.R., Pape E., Beaudoin D.J., Todaro A., Pachiadaki M.G., Kormas K.A., & Edgcomb V.P. (2015) Metazoans of redoxocline sediments in Mediterranean deep-sea hypersaline anoxic basins. BMC Biology, 13: 105. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12915-015-0213-6.

Bernhard J.M., Kormas K., Pachiadaki M.G., Rocke E., Beaudoin D.J., Morrison C., Visscher P.T., Cobban A.,Starczak V.R., & Edgcomb V.P. (2014) Benthic protists and fungi of Mediterranean deep hypersaline anoxic basin redoxcline sediments. Extreme Microbiology, 5: 605. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2014.00605.

Baguley J.G., Montagna P.A., Cooksey C., Hyland J.L., Bang H.W., Kamikawa A., Bennetts P., Morrison C., Saiyo G., Parsons E., Herdener M., & Ricci M. (2014) Community response of deep-sea soft-sediment metazoan meiofauna to the Deepwater Horizon blow out and oil spill. Marine Ecological Progress Series, 528: 127-140. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11290 .


Eagle Scout Award, Boy Scouts of America, Las Vegas, NV USA

  • 2008

Millennium Scholar, University of Nevada, Reno, NV USA

  • 2008 to 2012 ($7,680)

Pack Pride Scholarship, University of Nevada, Reno, NV, USA

  • 2008 to 2010 ($3,000)

STRI Short-Term Fellowship, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama City, Panama

  • June 2015 – November 2015 ($4,800)

STRI Pre-doctoral Fellowship, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama City, Panama

  • December 2015 – November 2017 ($22,000)

Linda Escobar Award, UT Austin, Austin, TX, USA

  • February 2017 ($1,500)

Texas Ecolab Research Grant, Braun & Gresham Associates, Dripping Springs, TX, USA

  • Spring 2018 – Fall 2018 ($11,000)
  • Spring 2019 – Fall 2019 ($8,975)
  • Spring 2020 – Fall 2020 ($8,900)

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program, National Science Foundation USA

  • Spring 2018 (Honorable Mention)

UT Summer Research Fellowship, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, USA

  • Summer 2018 ($6,600)

UT Departmental Recruitment Fellowship, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, USA

  • Fall 2018 – Summer 2019 ($27,000)

NSF LSAMP – REU Mentor Program, National Science Foundation USA & Organization for Tropical Studies, Costa Rica

  • Summer 2019 ($3,600)

UT Integrative Biology Start Up Grant, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, USA

  • April 2019 ($1,960)

Sigma Xi Grant in Aid of Research, Sigma Xi: The Scientific Research Honor Society, Research Triangle, NC, USA

  • January 2020 ($450)

Jean Andrews Intern Summer Fellowship, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, USA

  • Summer 2020 ($6,600)

Stengl-Wyer College of Natural Science Fellowship, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, USA

  • September 2020 – August 2021 ($34,000)



Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute – Behavioral Discussion Group October 5th, 2015

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute – Fellows Symposium February 19th, 2016

UT Ecolunch Seminar Series – November 2nd, 2017

Entomological Society of America – 10 Minute Paper Graduate Student Competition November 6th, 2017

UT Integrative Biology – Graduate Research Symposium April 7th, 2018

UT Ecology Seminar– Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020

UT Science Under the Stars Public Lecture Series – “Chemistry is the Language of Life”, November 8th, 2018

Entomological Society of America – November 2018 and 2017

Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology – Rising Star in Organismal Botany, January 5th, 2020


Courses Taught: 


Teaching Assistant – University of Nevada, Reno

  • Entomology (Biology 437), Spring 2013 & 2014
    • Professors: Dr. Lee Dyer

Guest Lecturer – Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

  • Introductory Tropical Field Biology (aka Gigante Course), Fall 2015
    • Professors: Sabrina Amador & James Coronado Riviera
  • Yale Tropical Biology Course, Entomology Section, Spring 2016
    • Professor: Eliza Comita

Teaching Assistant – University of Nevada, Las Vegas

  • Aikido (PEX 115), Fall 2016 & Spring 2017
    • Professor: Don Bannai

Teaching Assistant – The University of Texas at Austin

  • Introduction to Cell & Molecular Biology (BIO 311C), Fall 2017
    • Professor: Dr. Jennifer Frtitz
  • Freshman Research Initiative - Biodiversity (BIO 206L/NSC 109), Spring 2018
    • Professor: Dr. Susan Cameron Devitt

        Course Facilitator – The University of Texas at Austin

  • Fundamentals of Ecology (BIO 390E), Fall 2018
    • Co-facilitated this course with Nicholas Ivers &Whitney Behr under supervision of Dr. Tim Keitt


Graduate Classes Taken: 

  • Population Genetics (BIO 389A), Fall 2017
  • Introduction to Programming in the Sciences, Fall 2017
  • Subjects & Skills in EEB (BIO 389D), Fall 2017 - Spring 2018
  • Ecological Genomics (BIO 389G), Spring 2018
  • Issues in Population Biology (BIO 384L), Spring 2018 & Fall 2018
  • Fundamentals of Ecology (BIO 390E), Fall 2018