Research and Education Interests

Current Work

 

updating....

 

 

Post-Doctoral and Doctoral Research

 

Caribbean BiogeographyThe Caribbean Islands have long been recognized for their important role in human history as the gateway to the Americas, yet the rich plant and animal communities of the islands are too often overlooked. Centuries of agriculture and development have resulted in major conservation concerns for much of the region. A better understanding of the biodiversity of the islands and the processes that have contributed to its evolution are vital to preserve it for future generations. The region has a long history of scientific study, but major questions remain about the origin and diversification of the islands’ unique plants and animals. My postdoctoral project sought answers to those questions by analyzing a living fossil: scorpions. As a major group of predatory arthropods, scorpions are ideal organisms for understanding Caribbean biogeography (the distribution of biodiversity over space and time). This study examined several independent lineages of scorpions inhabiting the Caribbean, all with varying dispersal abilities, in order to test the role of vicariance (geographic separation) vs. dispersal in the formation of new species in the Caribbean. This research was funded by a NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship in Biology.

Systematics of New World Buthid Scorpions: My doctoral research was focused on the systematics of New World buthid scorpions, with a focus on the medically significant genus Centruroides, and I am continuing this line of research, working on a revision of the genus and subfamily to which it belongs. This research was funded  by a NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant.

Other Research

 

Venom evolution: I am using next gen transcriptome data from venom glands to analyze evolutionary shifts in New World buthid venom components. 



Genomics: I am involved in the pilot i5k project which is sequencing the first scorpion genome: Centruroides sculpturatus.



Communication: I am working with Dr. Damian Elias and his student, Chrissy Rivera, on several aspect of scorpion behavior including multimodal communication in mating and anti-predatory stridulation.



Amblypygids: Lately I have become fascinated with amblypygids and have begun to incorporate them into my Caribbean biogeography project.



My other passion is science education and science education reform.  I have written several inquiry-based educational modules that are freely available and taught at multiple campuses in the City University of New York system (Backyard Toxicology, iSearch: Invertebrate Research), at the American Museum of Natural History, and an Arachnid Biodiversity inquiry lesson piloted in k-12 schools in the Dominican Republic. Finally, I am currently working on a project using art to teach the community about current scientific research.

 

I can be reached at lesposito {at} calacademy.org