Jessica is a Ph.D. candidate in the McBride lab group in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University. She is broadly interested in the genomic and neural underpinnings of behavioural evolution.
Her current work centres on the yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti. The ancestral "forest" form of the mosquito, found in Africa, appears to be a generalist feeder, with no strong preference for any particular host. The recently derived "domestic" form, found over most of the tropics and subtropics, exhibits a striking, innate preference for feeding on humans (see McBride et al. 2014 Nature). Jessica is using a number of different approaches—including neural-network models, genomics, and molecular genetics—to understand the evolution of olfactory receptors involved in this shift in preference.