- B.A., Bellarmine University
- M.S., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Chemical Ecology, Entomology
Dr. Ray studies the evolution of chemical communication and mating behavior in longhorned wood-boring beetles (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae). Longhorned beetles (a.k.a cerambycids) comprise a diverse group of insects with nearly 35,000 species. They are found on every continent except Antarctica, and are known to feed on species in nearly every plant family. Some longhorned beetles are cryptically colored, while others are colorful mimics of bees, ants, flies, and even other kinds of beetles. Some species are the size of a fruit fly, while other species are larger than a man’s hand. Longhorned beetles can be serious pests. They are at a high risk of being introduced through international trade, and a number of exotic species, such as the Asian longhorned beetle, have become established in the United States.
Cerambycids also vary dramatically in the way they locate and interact with mates. Chemicals called pheromones often mediate these interactions. In some species, females release tiny amounts of volatile pheromone to attract males. In other species, large numbers of males gather and release large amounts of volatile pheromone--attracting members of both sexes. Other longhorned beetle species don’t seem to use volatile pheromones at all, relying instead on sight or touch to locate/identify mates. Dr. Ray is interested in this variation and the evolutionary reasons behind it.
Dr. Ray identifies pheromones in previously unstudied species, investigates the role of pheromones in sexual selection and speciation, and uses molecular methods to trace the evolution of volatile pheromones in the family Cerambycidae.
Previously, Dr. Ray was a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Entomology at the University of California Riverside, working with Dr. Jocelyn Millar. She has ongoing research projects studying mating behavior of longhorned beetles in California (in collaboration with Dr. Millar) and in the Navajo Nation of Arizona and New Mexico (in collaboration with the Diné College Environmental Internship program).