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Department of Entomology

Department of Entomology
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Kansas State University
Manhattan KS 66506-4004

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Kula, Robert

Kula, Robert Ph.D. 2006 Phone: (202) 382-1781 rkula@sel.barc.usda.gov USDA WEBSITEArea(s) of Specialization:
Insect Systematics
Degree Being Pursued: Ph.D.

Bio Brief

"Systematics of Dacnusini (Hymenoptera: Braconidae), parasitoids of cyclorrhaphous Diptera"

General Research Interests

My primary research interest is systematics of Braconidae, particularly braconids that attack plant-infesting flies. A major goal of my research is to publish taxonomic revisions to facilitate the use of opiine and alysiine braconids for biological control. Taxonomic revisions are of critical importance to biological control programs in that they provide keys and morphological variation data used to identify potential biological control agents and/or antagonists. Revisions also unlock the biological control potential of natural enemy groups through naming and describing undescribed species, providing access to literature, and disseminating host utilization and spatiotemporal distribution data. In addition to morphologically based revisionary work, I am interested in exploring the use of molecular markers (e.g. COI) for braconid species-level diagnostics.

Another major goal of my research is to discern the evolutionary relationships among species in Opiinae and Alysiinae. Several taxonomists (e.g. Fischer, Griffiths, van Achterberg, Wharton) have proposed competing classifications for Opiinae and Alysiinae; I am working to construct a stable classification for both subfamilies through cladistic analysis of molecular and morphological data. I am also interested in using phylogenies to study morphological and biological transitions that have occurred in Opiinae and Alysiinae (e.g. shifts in host utilization). Ultimately, I intend to compare phylogenies for opiines, alysiines, and their hosts to assess patterns of host-parasitoid co-evolution.

In addition to insect systematics, I am interested in insect diversity and conservation biology. In future studies I hope to explore how prairie management techniques affect insect diversity. Specifically, how does fire (e.g. frequency, season) and grazing (e.g. frequency, season, native vs. nonnative herbivores) affect insect diversity; how do various combinations of fire and grazing affect insect diversity?


B.S. Biology and Wildlife Ecology, Peru State College, Nebraska, 1998
M.S. Entomology, Texas A&M University, Texas, 2001


Teaching Experience

2005 Guest Lecturer ENTOM 250 Insects and People
2005 Guest Instructor ENTOM 710 Insect Taxonomy
2005 Invited Laboratory Instructor ENTOM 820 Biological Control
2003 Teaching Assistant ENTOM 710 Insect Taxonomy
2003 Teaching Assistant ENTOM 820 Biological Control


Systematics of Dacnusini (Hymenoptera: Braconidae), parasitoids of cyclorrhaphous Diptera

My research focuses on the systematics of Dacnusini, a group of parasitoid wasps that attack stem- and leaf-mining flies. I have three objectives for my dissertation: (1) perform morphological phylogenetic analyses to evaluate the monophyly of genera and determine the relationships among species in Dacnusini, (2) provide a taxonomic revision of the New World species in Chaenusa, and (3) perform molecular phylogenetic analyses to assess the monophyly of Chaenusa and discern the relationships among species in the genus.

  • For objective one, a matrix of coded morphological characters will be developed and analyzed using maximum parsimony as implemented in PAUP* 4.0. Species in Alysiini and/or Opiinae (two wasp groups closely related to Dacnusini) will be used as outgroup taxa, and the ingroup will consist of multiple species from each genus in Dacnusini.
  • For objective two, New World specimens of Chaenusa will be sorted into morphospecies, and data on intraspecific morphological variation will be entered into a spreadsheet. Descriptive statistics will be produced for each species and used to write new species descriptions, species redescriptions, and a dichotomous key.
  • For objective three, sequences from the mitochondrial NADH 1 dehydrogenase gene will be analyzed using maximum parsimony, maximum likelihood, and Bayesian inference as implemented in PAUP* 4.0 and MrBayes 3.0. Species in Alysiini and/or Opiinae will be used as outgroup taxa, and the ingroup will consist of multiple species in Chaenusa, Chorebus, and Coelinius.

In addition to my research, I am an active participant in the development and maintenance of a long-term insect survey and inventory program at Konza Prairie Biological Station.


Kula, R. R., and G. Zolnerowich. 2008. Revision of New World Chaenusa Haliday sensu lato (Hymenoptera: Braconidae: Alysiinae), with new species, synonymies, hosts, and distribution records. Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington 110: 1-60

Kula, R., G. Zolnerowich, and C. Ferguson. 2006. Phylogenetic analysis of Chaensua sensu lato (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) using mitochondrial NADH 1 dehydrogenase gene sequences. Journal of Hymenoptera Research 15: 251-265.

Kula, R. R. and G. Zolnerowich. 2005. A new species of Epimicta Förster (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) from North America and new distribution records for Epimicta griffithsi Wharton. Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington 107: 78 - 83.

Kula, R. R. 2003. Morphological variation in Opius Wesmael (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) with an emphasis on Nearctic species in the subgenus Gastrosema Fischer. Journal of Hymenoptera Research 12: 278 – 302

Kula, R. R. and R. E. Clopton. 1999. Amoebogregarinanigra n. gen., n. comb. (Apicomplexa: Gregarinidae) from adult Melanoplus differentialis (Orthoptera: Acrididae) in southeastern Nebraska. Journal of Parasitology 85: 321 – 325