Perryn Richardson

PhD candidate

I am recent edition to the CL•I•M•E lab and a Zoology doctoral candidate for Stellenbosch University’s Botany and Zoology Department. I hold a Master’s degree in Entomology from Rhodes University where I was a researcher in the Centre for Biological Control. My master’s research focused on characterising the gut microbiome of False Codling Moth (Thaumatotibia leucotreta) and its host microbe physiological interactions. During my undergrad, I was heavily influenced by the works of Rachel Carson, Elizabeth Kolbert and Prof. Jonathan Losos which cultivated within me a passion for trying to understand complex ecological and evolutionary mechanisms, and it is this passion that has driven me to further my academic career.

Currently my PhD research is focused on understanding the plasticity of insect cuticle colouration under changing climates using the Asian Ladybeetle (Harmonia axyridis) as a model. Developmental plasticity of melanisation or the extent of dark coloration in insects manifests when individuals have experienced a change in environmental conditions during development, resulting in a fixed adult phenotype. Much of this research has been done on insects in laboratory conditions as it is less challenging to measure fitness consequences of temperature-related insect colour variation in controlled laboratory settings. However, these studies lack ecological realism and do not take into account other variables such as diet, humidity regimes and parasite load which can affect the plasticity of adult-stage melanisation. Therefore, my research aims to understand the complexity and potential of developmental colour plasticity in insects as a means to maintain optimal temperatures in a warming climate.