Dr. Sunshine Van Bael’s laboratory studies community ecology with emphases on symbioses and plant-animal interactions. Broadly, we are interested in how plants, animals and fungi become involved in symbioses with other organisms to feed themselves and defend themselves from enemies. We are involved in projects in Panama and Louisiana that include microbial ecology, chemical ecology, biodiversity conservation, coastal restoration and agroecology (the ecology of human agriculture). Our study organisms include plants, insects, fungi, bacteria and humans.  Please visit our research page and our links page to learn more.


If you are an educator or a student, be sure to visit our “links” page to find materials about our research in tropical forests and agricultural systems.

The Van Bael Lab

  photo by Christian Ziegler

Laboratory News

February 2014

New paper published from our work in Panama: Estrada, C., Rojas, E., Wcislo, W., and S. A. Van Bael. 2014. Fungal endophyte effects on leaf chemistry alter the in vitro growth rates of leaf-cutting ants’ fungal mutualist, Leucocoprinus gongylophorusFungal Ecology 8, 37-45.  See our publications page for the pdf!


Two new undergraduate volunteers joined the lab: Welcome to Casey Gu and Ryan Wolfe.


December 2013

Our lab sampled plants, fungi and bacteria from sites that were heavily oiled and not oiled during the BP oil spill. Demetra has lots of work to do in characterizing these diverse microorganisms. Sunshine travelled to Panama to catch up on some projects there and Kim explored northern Louisiana looking for Atta texana colonies.


We were awarded a Newcomb Institute grant for Emma Tower to join Kim’s project in Panama this upcoming summer!


November 2013

Our lab hosted “Girls in STEM at Tulane” and our visitors cultivated their own pet endophytes from Tulane’s native Louisiana plant garden. See the photo album on the Photos page.


October 2013

We were awarded a CELT grant from Tulane for Emma Tower and Taryn Farber to continue their work with us in Spring semester 2014!

New paper published: Van Bael, S. A., R. Zambrano and J. E. Hall. 2013. Bird communities in forested and human modified landscapes of Central Panama: a baseline survey for a native species reforestation treatment. International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services & Management, DOI: 10.1080/21513732.2013.842187


August 2013

We are welcoming three new graduate students; Peter Tellez, Jordan Hoffmann and Stephen Suchy to the laboratory! Also Emma Tower and Taryn Farber are joining as a new undergraduate volunteers.


May 2013

Sunshine, Kim and Nathan are off to Panama for June and July, while Demetra and Stephen begin to explore fungal endophytes in Louisiana wetlands.


New paper published in Ecosphere: Coblentz, K. E., and S. A. Van Bael. 2013. Field colonies of leaf-cutting ants select plant materials containing low abundances of endophytic fungi.


April 2013

Our new laboratory is complete in 443 Boggs! Now it’s time to get some research going!


March 2013

Demetra Kandalepas joins the laboratory as our first Tulane post-doctoral researcher, and we collect our first Spartina for analyses of endophytic fungi!


Gabriel Patterson from Colorado College is awarded a STRI competitive internship to join the lab in Panama for summer 2013.


Renovations on the Tulane laboratory in the Lindy Boggs Building are coming to a close!


February 2013

New paper published in New Phytologist: Estrada, C., Wcislo, W., S. A. Van Bael. 2013. Symbiotic fungi alter plant chemistry that discourages leaf-cutting ants.

http://tulane.edu/news/newwave/030413_ants.cfm



December 2012

Van Bael joins a group of researchers and administrators from Tulane on a visit to the University of Havana in Cuba.

https://tulane.edu/news/newwave/011513_cuba.cfm



November 2012

New paper published in BMC Ecology: Leaf endophyte load influences fungal garden development in leaf-cutting ants.


August 2012

Kimberly Mighell officially joins the lab!


Van Bael, with collaborators from STRI, publishes in Ecological Entomology  on the leaf-cutting ant and endophytic fungi work from Panama.


May 2012

Tulane undergraduate, Kyle Coblentz, joins the lab in Panama for a summer NSF REU project.


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Check out our new materials for teachers and kids, including bilingual, downloadable coloring pages and videos about leaf-cutting ants.

http://www.stri.si.edu/english/kids/symbiosis/index.html















Damond Kyllo