Riggins Forest Entomology Lab

Welcome to the webpage for the Forest Entomology Lab at Mississippi State University, led by Dr. John J. Riggins Donate

Meet the Team

Current Members
Professor of Forest Entomology

John J. Riggins, Ph. D.

Dr. Riggins is originally from Nebraska. He received a B.S. and M.S. in Biology from the University of Nebraska at Kearney. During his time there he studied tiger beetles, carrion beetles, and below-ground invertebrates of wet meadows along the Platte River. He received a Ph.D. in Forest Entomology under Dr. Fred Stephen at the University of Arkansas in 2008. His research in Arkansas used traditional field ecology and modern geospatial techniques to investigate an outbreak of the red oak borer in the Ozark mountains. His current research investigates how disturbances and symbioses influence forest biogeochemistry. In his spare time, Dr. Riggins spends as much time as possible with his wife, Erika and his children Ian, Isaac, Zoey, and Max. He also enjoys hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, and reading.
Lab Manager / Research Technician

John W. Thomason

John is a Mississippi native born and raised in Vicksburg. He went into the work force after high school as a deckhand on the Motor Vessel Dredge Jadwin for the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers. Later he began to pursue a career in the ecological sciences. He received his B.S. in forestry with a concentration in wildlife management from Mississippi State University graduating magna cum laude in spring of 2014. His research under the guidance of Dr. Riggins is focused on the early colonization process (dispersal & host selection) of the southern pine beetle (Dendroctonus frontalis). He has recently taken over the reigns as lab manager, and assists with all aspects of research ongoing in the lab. In his spare time, John enjoys hunting, fishing, camping, and working with the youth of his church.
Past Members

Natalie A. Clay, Ph.D.

Natalie received her Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma Biology Department in 2013 in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology program after earning a B.A. magna cum laude double majoring in biology and art from Colby College. Natalie brought a wealth of knowledge in ecosystem ecology, nutritional ecology, and community ecology. Dr. Clay is an Assistant Professor of Biology at Louisiana Tech University .

Dr. John Formby

Dissertation Title: Invasion potential and overwintering biology of the Redbay Ambrosia Beetle (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) in the United States

John graduated in 2016. He is now a forest entomologist with the USDA Forest Service, Forest Health Protection in New Mexico .

Dr. Nathan Little

Dissertation Title: Implications for the detection, utilization, and degradation of bark beetle-attacked southern pines by subterranean termites. Nathan graduated in spring of 2013. He is now a research entomologist with the Stoneville, MS. USDA ARS .
M.S. Student

Kristy McAndrew

Thesis Title: Acoustic analysis of saproxylic arthropod diversity in North and Central American pine forests

Kristy graduated in spring of 2021 (congratulations!!) and is now a Ph.D. student in the Ward Lab .
M.S. Student

Matthew Thorn

Thesis Title: Recreational firewood movement as a vector of non-native woodborers in Mississippi

Matt graduated in 2017, and currently works for the Columbus Air Force Base. as the Natural Resource Manager.
M.S. Student

Dr. Kevin Chase

Thesis Title: Forest stand preference of Sirex nigricornis, and Sirex noctilio hazard in the southeastern United States.

Kevin graduated in 2013, and is currently a research entomologist with Bartlett Tree Experts at their headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina.
M.S. Student

Nathan Blount

Thesis Title: Field survey of native and non-native subterranean termites in southeastern United States forests.

Nathan Graduated in Spring of 2012, and is currently a Wildlife Biologist for Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks.
M.S. Student

Ryann Campbell

Thesis Title: Prey specificity of Thanasimus dubius between latent and intermediate phases of southern pine beetle.

Ryann graduated in 2011 as the Lab's first graduate.  She became a sales rep for Animal Health International.
UnderGraduate Research Scholar

Dutton Day

Dutton was awarded a College of Agriculture and Life Sciences/MAFES Undergraduate Research Scholarship to conduct research on the effects of blue stain fungus on the biodiversity of invertebrate decomposers in Honduras, Mississippi, and Arizona. He is now pursuing a career as a dentist at the University of Mississippi Medical Center School of Dentistry
UnderGraduate Research Scholar

Jessica Tomasi

Jessica was awarded a College of Agriculture and Life Sciences/MAFES Undergraduate Research Scholarship to conduct research on the effects of blue stain fungus on termite presence in dead wood. She then began another 2-year undergraduate research project with Dr. Mark McConnell assessing various management practices on native warm season grasses for northern bobwhite quail.  She is now a Farm Bill Biologist with Quail Forever in Alabama. 
UnderGraduate Research Scholar

Vaughn Hamill

Vaughn was awarded a College of Agriculture and Life Sciences/MAFES Undergraduate Research Scholarship to conduct research on assessing the use of ecoacustical recordings to measure invertebrate diversity and richness within logs. He is currently the lab manager /research assistant for the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab - Molecular R&D section at Kansas State University, and plans on attending graduate school for Geological/Earth/Space science.
UnderGraduate Research Scholar

Lauren Gamblin

Lauren was a horticulture major originally from Ohio, and was awarded a College of Agriculture and Life Sciences/MAFES Undergraduate Research Scholarship to conduct her research on phenology and community ecology of leaf litter invertebrates and their role in wood decomposition of southern forests. Additionally, she was awarded a Garden Club of America scholarship in Spring, 2015 to expand this research.


We explore a broad spectrum of forest entomology research opportunites.

Multiple Discipline Approach

Field Ecology
Geospatial Techniques
Invasion Ecology
Biotic  Interactions &
Ecosystem Services
Invasion Biology Invasion biology is the study of species introductions into new geographic regions that were previously disjunct from existing populations. These introductions often lead to adverse changes in ecological and economical processes. For instance, laurel wilt disease threatens to wipe out the Lauraceae family of trees in North America, affecting the culinary industry and native fauna. Some of our projects involving laurel wilt include: genetically linking established populations to a single introduced clonal beetle; determining the supercooling point for the beetle; and developing range expansion maps based on host range, beetle biology, and climate change.
Plant/Insect/Fungus Interactions Plants, insects, and fungi are often involved in complex symbiotic relationships between one another. These interactions are often key drivers of ecosystem function, but are usually poorly understood. Ongoing research in our lab investigates how fungal associates of bark beetles influence the brown food web, wood decomposition, and ultimately the terrestrial carbon cycle following bark beetle epidemics.
Disturbance Ecology Forest ecosystems experience periodic disturbances from fire, storms, diseases, and insect outbreaks. These disturbances drive forest succession and can impact forest sustainability and ecosystem services. Some of our disturbance ecology research includes: how drought may affect the European woodwasp in its native and introduced ranges; how bark beetle outbreaks affect wood decomposition and carbon flux in arid, tropical, and sub-tropical forests; the effects of prescribed burning on native and non-native ambrosia beetle abundance; and how silvicultural practices affect arthropod diversity and ecosystem services in longleaf pine forests.
Integrated Pest Management Integrated pest management (IPM) is the science behind using the best possible combination of control strategies for a given pest. Implemented strategies should optimize control of target pest, minimize impacts to forest ecosystems, and reduce costs for land managers. Insect life history, toxicology, insect/tree interactions, pheromone responses, and numerous other details provide the foundation for IPM. Some of our IPM projects include: evaluating southern pine beetle (SPB) trap deployment timing; implementing lethal trap trees for SPB control; or improving attractiveness of termite bait stations with the use of blue stain fungi.

Looking For Publications?

Follow the links below


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EPP 3124 Forest Pest Management

EPP 8881 Entomology & Plant Pathology Colloquium

Innovative Education

Job Opportunites


Post-Doctural Associate

Ph. D. Student

Emerging needle pathogens are affecting loblolly pine forests in the Southeastern USA.

We invite you to consider joining our team in the investigation of these pathogens.
Click here for announcement PDF of both positions

Get In Touch

Dr. John J. Riggins
100 Old Hwy 12
Mississippi State, MS
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