Academics: Faculty

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Dr. Jennifer Kovacs

Jennifer Kovacs, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Biology

Email: jkovacs@spelman.edu
Location: Science Center Room 142
Campus Box: 1182
Office: 404-270-5724
Fax: 404-270-5725

Degrees:

Ph.D., Georgia Institute of Technology
B.A.,  Agnes Scott College

Download Dr. Kovac's CV

Courses:
BIO 110: Population Biology 
BIO 365: Animal Behavior 
BIO 325: Evolution in Action 

Research Interests: 

My research seeks to provide a better understanding of how unusual sources of selective pressures (i.e. caste dimorphism, horizontal gene transfers, and endosymbiosis) interact with more traditional forms of selection (i.e. sexual, kin, predation, parasitism, etc.) to shape arthropod evolution.

Specifically, my research seeks to understand:

  1. How the evolution of social insects is affected by the genomic conflicts generated by sexual selection, kin selection, and caste-specific selection operating on queen and worker body shape;
  2. How horizontal gene transfers from bacteria and fungi into arthropod genomes affect the phenotypic and genomic evolution of the recipient species; and 
  3. How endosymbiotic relationships between bacteria and arthropods affect the selective pressures faced by the host species, especially as it pertains to predation, parasitism, and infection. 

Overall, by studying these unique systems and the different interacting pressures they experience, we gain a much broader, richer, and more realistic understanding of how species and their genomes evolve.

Recent Publications: 

Pai, A., McGinnis, G., Cole, M., Stovall, K., Kovacs, J.L., Lee, M. & D. Bryant. Submitted. Let’s be friends: Using Facebook to enhance undergraduate science instruction. Cases on Social Networking Websites for Instructional Use.

Kovacs, J.L. & M.A.D. Goodisman. 2012. Effects of size, genotype, and mating on queen overwintering survival in the social wasp Vespula maculifrons. Ecological Entomology. 41(6): 1612-1620.

Kovacs, J.L., Altincicek, B., & N.M. Gerardo. 2012. Horizontally-transferred fungal carotenoid genes in the two-spotted spidermite Tetranychus urticae. Biology Letters. 8:253-257.

Kovacs, J.L., Hoffman E.A., Marriner S.M.* & M.A.D. Goodisman. 2010. Detecting selection on morphological traits in social insect castes: the case of the social wasp Vespula maculifrons. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 101:93-102.

Kovacs, J.L., Hoffman E.A., Marriner S.M.*, Rekau J.A.*, & M.A.D. Goodisman. 2010. Environmental and genetic influences on queen and worker body size in the social wasp Vespula maculifrons. Insectes Sociaux. 57:53-65. 

Johnson, E.L.*, Cunningham, T.W.*, Marriner, S.M.*, Kovacs, J.L., Hunt, B.G., Bhakta, D.B.*, & M.A.D. Goodisman. 2009. Resource allocation in a social wasp: Effects of breeding system and life 
cycle on reproductive decisions. Molecular Ecology. 18: 2908-2920

Goodisman, M.A.D., Kovacs, J.L., & B.H. Hunt. 2008. Functional genetics and genomics in ants: The interplay of genes and social life. Myrmecological News. 11: 107-117

Hoffman, E.A., Kovacs, J.L.,& M.A.D Goodisman. 2008. Genetic structure and breeding system dynamics of a social wasp and its social parasite. BMC Evolutionary Biology. 8:239

Kovacs, J.L., Hoffman, E.A., & M.A.D. Goodisman. 2008. Mating success in the polyandrous social wasp Vespula maculifrons. Ethology. 114: 340-350

Kovacs, J.L. ,& M.A.D. Goodisman. 2007. Irregular brood patterns and worker reproduction in social wasps. Naturwissenschaften. 94: 1011-1014. 

Goodisman, M.A.D., Kovacs, J.L., & E.A. Hoffman. 2007. The significance of multiple mating in the social wasp Vespula maculifrons. Evolution. 61 (9): 2260-2267 

Goodisman, M.A.D., Kovacs, J.L., & E.A. Hoffman. 2007. Lack of conflict during queen production in the social wasp Vespula maculifrons. Molecular Ecology. 16:2589-2595 

Goodisman, M.A.D., Sankovich, K.A., & J.L. Kovacs. 2007. Genetic and morphological variation over space and time in the invasive fire ant Solenopsis invicta. Biological Invasions. 9: 571-584