Dr. Thomas Chouvenc: Research:
With many subterranean termite pest species, a large effort was done in the past to use pathogens as biological control agents as an alternative method to protect structures. However, after 50 years of attempted biological control, no successful control was achieved. Dr. Chouvenc investigates the interaction between termites and pathogens as a multipartite system, where beneficial bacteria within the termite nest can protect the termites against fungal pathogens. This research programs aims to understand how termites can “farm” their own antibiotics.
Termite Ecology and Evolution
Subterranean termite colonies can reach millions of individuals, with a single pair of reproductives: the queen and the king. Dr. Chouvenc investigates how the termite colony invests its resources at different points during the development of the colony. Different aspects are studied: nurturing capacity, flexible developmental pathways, and differential investments in castes in aging colonies. This research programs is trying to reveal how termites have been ecologically successful, resilient, invaders, throughout their evolution and radiation.
Species Interaction and Hybridization
In 2015, it was discovered that two invasive termite species had the potential for hybridization in South Florida. Dr. Chouvenc ‘s research program investigates what are the attributes of such hybrids to determine their potential threat to structures, and also addresses long term consequences on how gene flow may occur between the two species.
Termite Species Distribution in Florida
As a consequence of the discovery of termite hybrids, there is now a critical need to determine the geographical distribution of the different termite species across Florida, in order to determine with precision the potential zone of hybridization. Dr. Chouvenc is involved in updating and improving knowledge of the distribution of termites in the State.