Have You Met Rutgers-Newark?

Bugs Are Her Passion

Insects have helped put Dr. Jessica Ware on the map –and she has returned the favor by helping to map their genomes.  Ware has already distinguished herself as a researcher and has won an amount of fame for a couple of “buggy” projects.

Most recently, Ware, an entomologist who studies evolution, was awarded an Early  CAREER award from the National Science Foundation.  The Early CAREER award is given to junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellence in teaching, and successful integration of the two.

Ware will receive more than $800K over five years to look at how the social structure of lower-termite colonies might have arisen 140 million years ago, testing whether ecology and dietary shifts led to changes in diversification and morphology. Along with RU-N undergraduate and graduate students working in her lab, Ware will train Newark high-school students in fieldwork and the scientific method through Aim High, a summer-research program run by Rutgers University. The goal: to increase recruitment of underprivileged students to post-secondary education and careers in STEM fields. Ware has been working with high-schoolers at RU-N over the past five years through Aim High, the NJ SEEDS program and Peddie Academy

in 2014, Ware was part of 1KITE, an international team of 100 researchers that spent two years on an unprecedented project to map the evolution of insects using a molecular data set of unparalleled quality and dimensions.  The initial report on their groundbreaking work is the cover story of the Nov. 7, 2014 issue of Science, the world’s largest general science journal, published weekly by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  The article stirred so much interest that within two weeks of publication, the article was ranked No. 1 out of the last 282 Science journal articles/ papers, based on the number of downloads, news reports, blogs, tweets, etc.

One of the many interesting facts established by Ware and the team:  Insects, in the form of dragonflies and damselflies, were the first creatures to take to the skies of earth, 406 million years ago.

Ware was selected as part of 1KITE in 2012. The 1KITE collaboration studied insects because they are the most species-rich group of animals, and, explains Ware, are “economically and ecologically important organisms.”

In 2013, an article co-authored by Ware made headlines in mainstream media including the L.A Times and New York Magazine.  Ware and her Rutgers University-Newark colleague, Dominic Evangelista, published an article in the December 2013 Journal of Economic Entomology,  identifying a cockroach species never before seen in the U.S. The news exploded on the Web and then was picked up by numerous mainstream media, including Reuters, the L.A. Times, the BBC in England, the CBC in Canada, two German radio stations, New York Magazine, and  British newspapers.  The buggy discovery even was the subject if a joke on The Daily Show.  The intriguing tale is laid out in detail at http://www.newark.rutgers.edu/news/researchers-star-cockroach-odyssey-ages.

In 2012 she was selected as part of 1KITE, an international team of more than 50 scientists working to unravel the secrets of the evolutionary history of insects.  The 1KITE collaboration is studying insects because they are the most species-rich group of animals, and, explains Ware, are “economically and ecologically important organisms.”

Ware, who came to RU-Newark in 2010, teaches graduate level courses in evolution.