Naomi Pierce is the Hessel Professor of Biology in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. Research in her laboratory focuses on the ecology and evolution of species interactions. This work has ranged from studying genetic mechanisms and biochemical signaling pathways underlying three-way interactions between plants, pathogens, and insects to analyzing the ecological costs and benefits of symbioses between caterpillars and their attendant ants.
As a Radcliffe fellow, Pierce will be writing a book about the evolution of the Lycaenidae (the family of butterflies containing the blues, coppers, and hairstreaks). Members of this group are characterized by a striking diversity of life history strategies. Caterpillars may associate with ants mutualistically or parasitically; they may be plant-feeding or predatory on other insects. Pierce will focus on how life history transitions may have affected rates of diversification of different lineages and how the group’s biogeographic past may have influenced current distributions of species with particular life history strategies.
Pierce earned her bachelor’s degree at Yale University and her doctoral degree at Harvard University. She came to Harvard in 1990 after appointments as a research lecturer in the Department of Zoology at Oxford University and as assistant and associate professor at Princeton University. She has received prizes such as a Fulbright Fellowship and a MacArthur Fellowship, and she is currently an editor of Behavioral Ecology.