Katja Poveda

Assistant Professor
Department of Entomology
4126 Comstock Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY14853-2701

kap235 “@”

 Research Interests:
  • Plant-Insect Interactions
  • Agroecology
  • Landscape-scale effects in agroecosystems
  • Tropical Ecology
  • Functional Plant Diversity
  • Belowground-Aboveground Interactions


Heather Grab 

My research focuses on investigating the influences of landscape simplification on pollination and biological control services provided by wild insects to agriculture in NY. My research addresses how biodiversity is lost from agricultural landscapes based on species functional straits and evolutionary history and plasticity can help species cope with environmental stressors like land use change. In addition, to exploring the causes of biodiversity decline I am also interested in the consequences of these changes at both the community and species levels on the delivery of ecosystem services and practices like how  farm level diversification can recover them.

Graduate Students

Ricardo Perez 

I am broadly interested in understanding the relationships among environmental change, biodiversity, and ecosystem function. Specifically, I would like to use natural enemies and pest control services as a model for testing some basic ecological questions, about ecosystem services provided by arthropods in agricultural landscapes, such as:

-Does the level of biological control depend on diverse natural enemies assemblages, or is biological control largely provided by a small subset of functionally important species?

-Are multiple natural enemies complementary to each other or are they largely redundant?

-Is a high diversity of natural enemies a biological insurance against ecological disturbances?

-How do natural enemies in agroecosystems are influenced by local and landscape scale habitat availability and management?

Besides the theoretical interest, these questions have significant practical implications for both conservation biology and agriculture.

Before arriving at Cornell, I lived in Colombia where I completed a BSc in Biology from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. I also worked at the Colombian Corporation of Agricultural Research –Corpoica- in different projects related to insect population and community dynamics in tropical agroecosystems. At the end of the program, I plan to return to Colombia to contribute with the development of a more sustainable agriculture.

Mary Centrella 

I am interested in applying quantitative biology and landscape ecology to help us better understand solitary bees in the genus Osmia.  Because Osmia exhibit unique responses to stress, are hardy, and easy to manipulate, they can serve as model organisms for other solitary and/or native bees.  I am interested in quantifying some of their interesting ecological relationships, including pollination, distribution, and interspecific competition between a native and non-native species. I aim to quantify the effects pesticides and pathogens have on Osmia and to try to uncover what dictates these effects. Understanding these bees can give us insights into the broader world of crop-pollination, pesticide use, and the impacts of invasive species.

My interest in ecology stems from collection trips in the cloud forests of Ecuador during my undergraduate years. I received my BS in Zoology and BA in Spanish from the University of Wyoming. There, I worked on taxonomy of gall-wasps and pollen morphology with advisors Dr. Scott Shaw and Dr. Michael Dillon. I am currently a Ph.D. student in Entomology at Cornell University and am co-advised by Dr. Bryan Danforth and Dr. Katja Poveda.


Tim Luttermoser

I have broad research interests in landscape ecology, community ecology, insect behavior, and agroecology. In the Poveda lab, my work will focus on sustainable agriculture in Western Kenya using the push-pull system, an innovative agricultural system that exploits pest host-finding behavior to reduce pest damage and increase yield. In addition to analyzing landscape factors and pest behavior, I am also interested in the role of natural enemies in biological control.

Diana Obregon

I am broadly interested in contributing to deal with the trade-off between pollinator conservation and pest management. At the Poveda Lab, I am studying how agricultural intensification is linked to changes in the quantity and the quality of the floral resources available and the pesticide exposure for bees. For this project, I selected as a model Tetragonisca angustula, a very abundant stingless bee in Latin America that interacts with numerous wild plant species and with crops like coffee, cocoa and guava. I am doing my fieldwork in Colombia in the Andes region which is considered as one of the largest `biodiversity hotspots’, with an exceptional concentration of endemic species but at the same time, it is experiencing exceptional loss of habitat.

Undergraduate students

Lab Alumni


Susan Whitehead

Broadly, my research interests center on the ecological mechanisms and evolutionary consequences of species interactions. In particular, I am interested in the role of chemistry in mediating interactions between plants and animals. I take an integrative approach that utilizes modern tools in analytical organic chemistry along with observational field studies, behavioral experiments, and laboratory bioassays. In the Poveda Lab, I am working on understanding the chemical mechanisms of apple resistance to some of its major fruit-feeding pests. In addition, we are exploring how the history of apple domestication, and in particular, breeding efforts focused on increasing yield, have affected fruit chemical defense.  To read more about my current and past projects, visit my personal website.


Etzel GarridoMy research interests lie in the evolutionary ecology of biotic interactions. Specifically, I am interested in the evolution of plant defenses (i.e., resistance and tolerance to herbivory) in different ecological contexts. Since the evolutionary trajectory of any trait is often not easily predicted from simple pairwise interactions, I have focused on how plant defenses are subject to selection from a variety of community members, either directly or indirectly, including below- and above-ground interactions. I am also interested in modeling how the co-evolutionary dynamic between plants and enemies is mediated by the expression of induced plant defenses. At the Poveda Lab, I will study the exciting yet unexplored phenomenon of overcompensation to foliar and tuber herbivory in the cultivated potato Solanum tuberosum.
Christopher Stieha (2012-2014)
(Currently postdoc in the Abbott lab at Case Western Reserve University)

My research interests revolve around understanding how individual-level interactions, such as competition or herbivory, scale up to affect dynamics at the population, metapopulation, and landscape levels. I combine mathematical models and field experiments to develop, test, and refine predictions. In the Poveda Lab in collaboration with the Abbott Lab at Case Western, I am developing mathematical models to understand the effects of various plant defenses on herbivore population dynamics and the feedback between the two systems as an attempt to use bottom-up processes to mitigate pest outbreaks. I also use statistical models to determine abiotic and landscape-level factors affecting pest populations and agricultural production.



Anthony Polyakov 


Anthony provided invaluable support on one of Ricardo’s dissertation projects exploring the effects of landscape composition on the taxonomic and functional composition of ground beetle communities in agricultural landscapes. Anthony is currently studying at the University of Buenos Aires under the supervisions of Dr. Marcela Castelo.



Rachele Weintraub

Rachele joined the lab in 2015 and is currently working on her honors thesis. Rachele is double majoring in Plant Science and Entomology. She is interested in plant-insect interactions, particularly in host-herbivore systems. Her current research focuses on the effects of nitrogen availability and plant phenology on the tolerance response of potatoes after they are subjected to herbivory. In the future, she hopes to discover more about plant-insect interactions in agroecosystems while pursuing her Ph.D.

Natalia Moreno

I’m currently an undergraduate student from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia making a research internship as a part of Nexo Global 2016-I a new governmental program from the Colombian Government. My research interest focus on plant- animal interactions in tropical and agricultural systems. In the Poveda Lab I’ll be working with Mary Centrella on  landscape gradients influences in Osmia cornifrons fitness. Also I’ll be supporting Rachele Weintraub research on potato overcompensation.

Rachel Au 

Rachel joined the lab in 2012 and graduated in 2015. She did her undergraduate research understanding the effect of Colorado Potato damage on the compensatory response of a Colombian potato variety. Her work focused on understanding how the effect of a leaf-feeding herbivore will affect yield and the overcompensatory response.


Alena Hutchinson

Alena joined the lab in 2014 and is investigating how changes in landscape complexity affect the size of native bees found in strawberry fields.

Miles Renauld

Miles joined the lab in 2015 and investigated how landscape simplification affects bee size. He found that an increase in landscape simplification leads to a reduction in bee size. His paper is currently accepted in PlosOne and is available here.



Sara CillesSara_Cilles

Sara joined the lab in January 2014. Her invaluable work has allowed us to start a multi-variety potato experiment that investigates how different potato varieties respond in terms of tolerance, and induced resistance to CPB damage. Tradeoffs between defensive traits and yield will be explored with the data-set she is generating.