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Kathleen Darragh

Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of California, Davis

I am interested in chemical ecology, especially pheromones and mate choice.

While studying for my PhD at the University of Cambridge I studied Heliconius butterflies, focusing on chemical ecology, behaviour, and genetics. I investigated the role of chemical signalling in female mate choice, how larval and adult diets affect the chemical profile of males, geographic inter- and intra-specific variation in chemical profiles, and finally the genetic basis for these traits. In particular, I studied the genetic basis of an anti-aphrodisiac terpene, discovering a novel gene responsible for its production in male Heliconius melpomene.

I am currently a postdoc at UC Davis. Here, I study chemical ecology in orchid bees. In this system the bees do not produce the chemical compounds themselves but instead collect compounds from external sources such as plants and fungi which they use to form their final "perfume". I am interested in the role of these male perfumes in intraspecific mate choice as well as reproductive isolation between species.


  • 2020–present
    Postdoctoral research associate, University of California, Davis


  • 2019 
    University of Cambridge, PhD