The Ohio State University at Lima


Robin Bagley: Passing on a love of science

Robin Bagley

The limits on interpersonal contact brought on by an evolving pandemic are not dimming the excitement of the biology department’s newest assistant professor.

Robin Bagley is ready to get to know the students at Ohio State Lima and pass on her love for science.

“Although there won’t be as much time face-to-face this semester, I am very excited to get in the classroom and show our students all of the exciting things biology has to offer them,” Bagley said. “One thing I very firmly believe is that biology – and more broadly, science in general – is for everyone, something I hope to convey with both my teaching and with my interactions with our campus and larger communities.”

Bagley is an evolutionary ecologist and population geneticist. Her primary research interest is a group of insects called pine sawflies.

Redheaded pine sawfly

“Broadly, I am interested in how the diversity of life that we see was and continues to be generated, and how it is maintained in nature,” Bagley said. “I’m especially interested in why there are so many insects, especially those that parasitize other organisms like plants and other insects.”

Her new students will have a chance to get to know the pine sawflies, their host plants and the parasites associated with both. Bagley is interested in the relationships between the players and whether changing one component like the host plant causes divergences at the genetic level or in phenotypes, ie body structure, food preference and performance. Spoiler alert: The host plants do matter and Bagley has seen evidence of both phenotypic and genotypic changes.

Bagley will be recruiting students who want to do undergraduate research to help uncover more information about the insects by examining and identifying the parasites in her collection and by eventually rearing more parasites and pine sawflies from field sites.

“I’m planning to not only continue to look at the relationships between the sawflies and their pine tree host plants, but also to look at the parasitic insects that attack the sawflies. Because parasites have close relationships with their hosts, it may be that we can observe similar changes in both phenotypes and at the genetic level in the parasites as we do the sawflies,” Bagley said.

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Prior to her arrival at Ohio State Lima, Bagley spent three years as a postdoctoral research scholar at the University of Iowa, Department of Biology. She has taught ecology and evolution courses at the University of Iowa. Robin received her PhD in Biology from the University of Kentucky, and her MA and BS from Kean University.

Photo caption: Pine sawflies eat various species of pine trees in eastern North America. Bagley’s PhD work focuses on a single, widespread species called the redheaded pine sawfly, which eats about 14 different hosts.