Lee Dyer, Ph.D.

Foundation Professor, Biology & Director, Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology Graduate Program
Lee Dyer

Contact Information


  • Postdoctoral Fellowship Ecology; University of California Santa Cruz; 1994/1995
  • Ph.D. Ecology, University of Colorado, Boulder, 1994
  • Bachelor of Arts Biochemistry, University of California Santa Barbara, 1987
  • Bachelor of Arts English, University of California Santa Barbara, 1987

Research Interests:

Work in the chemical ecology and tropical diversity laboratory focuses on direct and indirect trophic interactions in complex biotic communities with emphases on global change, documenting the diversity of multi-trophic interactions, and examining the effects of plant secondary compounds on insect herbivores and their natural enemies. The main source of funding for our research comes from the National Science Foundation, Earthwatch Institute, the Department of Defense, and private funding sources. The major continuing research topics of our laboratory and collaborators include: 1) Chemical ecology; 2) Diversity of interactions in tropical and temperate forests; 3) Variation in tritrophic interactions due to climate change; 4) Conservation and applied ecology; 5) Quantitative ecology; 6)Coevolution across multiple trophic levels

Selected Publications

Additional Publications

  • Dyer, L.A. and M.L. Forister. 2015. The lives of Lepidopterists. Springer.
  • Richards, L.A., L. A. Dyer, M.L. Forister, A.M. Smilanich, C.D. Dodson, M.D. Leonard and C. S. Jeffrey. 2015. Phytochemical diversity drives tropical plant-insect community diversity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112: 10973-10978.
  • Greeney, H.F., R. Meneses, C.E. Hamilton, E.R. Hough, E.K. Austudillo, E. Lichter-Marck, R.W. Mannan, N. Snyder, H. Snyder, C.M. Ripplinger, S.M. Wethington, and L.A. Dyer. 2015. Trait-mediated trophic cascade creates enemy-free space for nesting hummingbirds. Science Advances - 1, e1500310.
  • Pardikes, N.A., A.M. Shapiro, L.A. Dyer, and M.L. Forister. 2015. Global weather and local butterflies: variable responses to a large-scale climate pattern along an elevational gradient. Ecology - In Press.
  • Forister, M. L., Novotny, V., Panorska, A. K., Baje, L., Basset, Y., Butterill, P. T., Cizek, L., Coley, P. D., Dem, F., Diniz, I. R., Drozd, P., Fox, M., Glassmire, A., Hazen, R., Hrcek, J., Jahner, J. P., Kama, O., Kozubowski, T. J., Kursar, T. A., Lewis, O. T., Lill, J., Marquis, R. J., Miller, S. E., Morais, H. C., Murakami, M., Nickel, H., Pardikes, N., Ricklefs, R. E., Singer, M. S., Smilanich, A. M., Stireman, J. O., Villamarín-Cortez, S., Vodka, S., Volf, M., Wagner, D. L., Walla, T., Weiblen, G. D., and L. A. Dyer. 2015. Global distribution of diet breadth in insect herbivores.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112:442-447.
  • Dyer, L.A., T.J. Massad, and M.L. Forister. 2015. The question of scale in trophic ecology. Pages 288-317 in: Hanley, T. and K. La Pierre (eds.). Trophic Ecology: Bottom-Up and Top-Down Interactions across Aquatic and Terrestrial Systems. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, MA.
  • Dyer, L.A., T.L. Parchman, C.S. Jeffrey, and L.A. Richards. 2014. New dimensions of tropical diversity: an inordinate fondness for insect molecules, taxa, and trophic interactions. Current Opinions in Insect Science 2:14-19.
  • Jeffrey, C.S., M. D. Leonard, A. E. Glassmire, C. D. Dodson, L. A. Richards, M. J. Kato, and L. A. Dyer. 2014. Anti-herbivore prenylated benzoic acid derivatives from Piper kelleyi. Journal of Natural Products 77:148-153.
  • Dyer, L.A., Wagner, D.L., Greeney, H.F., Smilanich, A.M., Massad, T.M., Robinson, M. Fox, M., Hazen, R., Glassmire, A., Pardikes, N., Fredrickson, K., Pearson, C., Gentry, G.L., and J.O. Stireman III. 2012. Novel insights into tritrophic interaction diversity and chemical ecology using 16 years of volunteer supported research. American Entomologist 58:15-19.
  • Dyer, L.A. 2011. New Synthesis. Back to the future: New approaches and directions in chemical studies of coevolution. Journal of Chemical Ecology 37:669.
  • Dyer, L.A., Carson, W.P., Leigh, E.G. 2011. Insect Outbreaks in Tropical Forests: Patterns, Mechanisms, and Consequences. In: Barbosa, P., Letourneau, D.K. and Agrawal, A.A. Insect Outbreaks Revisited. Wiley-Blackwell, New Jersey.
  • Dyer, L.A., Letourneau, D.K., Vega Chavarria, G. and D. Salazar Amoretti. 2010. Herbivores on a dominant understory shrub increase local plant diversity in rain forest communities. Ecology 91:3707-3718.
  • Rodriguez-Castaneda, G., Dyer, L.A., Brehm, G., Connahs, H., Forkner, R.E., and T.R. Walla. 2010. Tropical forests are not flat: how mountains affect herbivore diversity. Ecology Letters 13:1348-1357.
  • Smilanich, A.M., L.A. Dyer, M.D. Bowers, and J.Q. Chambers. 2009. Immunological costs to specialization and the evolution of insect diet breadth. Ecology Letters 12:612-621.
  • Smilanich, A.M., L.A. Dyer, and G. L. Gentry. 2009. The insect immune response and other putative defenses as effective predictors of parasitism. Ecology 90:1434-1440.
  • Dyer, L.A. 2008. The ecology of tri-trophic interactions in the tropics. Pages 275-293 in: Carson, W.P. and S.A. Schnitzer (editors). Tropical Forest Community Ecology. Blackwell Science, Oxford, UK.
  • Fincher, R.M., L.A. Dyer, C.D. Dodson, J. L. Richards, M.A. Tobler, J. Searcy, J. E. Mather, A. J. Reid, J. S. Rolig and W. Pidcock. 2008. Inter- and Intraspecific comparisons of antiherbivore defenses in three species of rainforest understory shrubs. Journal of Chemical Ecology 34:558-574.
  • Pearson, C.V., T.J. Massad, L.A. Dyer. 2008. Diversity cascades in alfalfa fields: from plant quality to agroecosystem diversity. Environmental Entomology 37:947-955.
  • Dyer, L.A., M.S. Singer, J.T. Lill, J.O. Stireman III, G.L. Gentry, R.J. Marquis, R.E. Ricklefs, H.F. Greeney, D.L. Wagner, H.C. Morais, I.R. Diniz, T.A. Kursar, and P.D. Coley. 2007. Host specificity of Lepidoptera in tropical and temperate forests. Nature 448:696-699.
  • Dyer, L.A. and D.K. Letourneau. 2007. Determinants of lichen diversity in a rainforest understory. Biotropica 39:525-539.
  • Dyer, L.A. and R.E. Forkner. 2007. Why are agroecosystems green? Ecology 88:1606-1607.
  • Armstrong, M., Berkowitz, A.R., Dyer, L.A. and J. Taylor. 2007. Understanding why students underrepresented in ecology pursue ecology careers: a preliminary case study of 39 African American students. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. In press.
  • Dyer, L.A. 2007. Do not go gentle into that tropical night. In: Adams, R. (ed.). Reflections by Moonlight. University Press of Colorado. In press.
  • Pearson, C.V. and L.A. Dyer. 2006. Trophic diversity in two grassland ecosystems. Journal of Insect Science 6:23.
  • Stireman III, J.O., L.A. Dyer, D.H. Janzen, M.S. Singer, J.T. Lill, R.J. Marquis, R.E. Ricklefs, G.L. Gentry, W. Hallwachs, P.D. Coley, J.A. Barone, H.F. Greeney, H. Connahs, P. Barbosa, H.C. Morais, and I.R. Diniz. 2005. Climatic unpredictability and caterpillar parasitism: implications of global warming. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 102:17384-17387.
  • Dyer, L.A., Matlock, R.M., Cherzad, D., and R. O'Malley. 2005. Predicting successful biological control in banana plantations. Environmental Entomology 34:403-409.
  • Stireman, J.O. III, Dyer, L.A., and R.M. Matlock. 2005. Top-down forces in managed versus unmanaged habitats. Pages 303-323 in: Barbosa, P. and I. Castellanos (eds.). Ecology of Predator-Prey Interactions. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Letourneau, D.K. and L.A. Dyer. 2005. Multi-trophic interactions and biodiversity: beetles, ants, caterpillars, and plants. Pages 366-385 in: Burslem,D.F.R.P.; Pinard,M.A.; Hartley,S.E. (eds.). Biotic Interactions in the Tropics: Their Role in the Maintenance of Species Diversity. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
  • Irschick, D., Dyer, L.A., and T. Sherry. 2005. Phylogenetic methods for studying specialization. Oikos 110:404-408.
  • Dyer, L.A., Dodson, C.D., Letourneau, D.K., Tobler, M.A., Hsu, A., and J.O. Stireman III. 2004. Ecological causes and consequences of variation in defensive chemistry of a neotropical shrub. Ecology 85:2795-2803.
  • Letourneau, D.K., Dyer, L.A., and G. Vega. 2004. Indirect effects of top predator on rain forest understory plant community. Ecology 85:2144-2152.
  • Dyer, L.A. and A.N. Palmer. 2004. Piper. A model genus for studies of evolution, chemical ecology, and trophic interactions. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston.
  • Dyer, L.A., Dodson, C.D., and J. Richards. 2004. Isolation, synthesis, and evolutionary ecology of Piper amides. Pages 117-139 in: Dyer, L.A. and A.N. Palmer (eds.). Piper. A model genus for studies of evolution, chemical ecology, and trophic interactions. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston.
  • Dyer, L.A., Gentry, G. and M. Tobler. 2004. Fitness consequences of herbivory: impacts on asexual reproduction of tropical rainforest understory plants. Biotropica 36:68-73.
  • Dyer, L.A., Dodson, C.D., Gentry, G. 2003. A bioassay for insect deterrent compounds found in plant and animal tissues. Phytochemical Analysis 14:381-388.
  • Dyer, L.A. and J.O. Stireman III. 2003. Community-wide trophic cascades and other indirect interactions in an agricultural community. Basic and Applied Ecology 4:423-432.
  • Dyer, L.A., Dodson, C.D., Stireman, J.O., Tobler, M.A., Smilanich, A.M., Fincher, R.M., and D.K. Letourneau. 2003. Synergistic effects of three Piper amides on generalist and specialist herbivores. Journal of Chemical Ecology 29:2499-2514.
  • Dyer, L.A. and D.K. Letourneau. 2003. Top-down and bottom-up diversity cascades in detrital versus living food webs. Ecology Letters 6:60-68.
  • Gentry, G.L. and L.A. Dyer. 2002. On the conditional nature of neotropical caterpillar defenses against their natural enemies. Ecology 83:3108-3119.
  • Dyer, L.A. 2002. Jungle phobias. Earthwatch 21:10-11. Dyer, L.A. 2002. A quantification of predation rates, indirect positive effects on plants, and foraging variation of the giant tropical ant, Paraponera clavata. Journal of Insect Science 2.18:1-7.
  • Dyer, L.A. and G.L. Gentry. 2002. Caterpillars and parasitoids of a tropical lowland wet forest. http://www.caterpillars.org.
  • Dyer, L.A. and N. Bishop. 2001. In defense of caterpillars. Natural History 110:42-47.
  • Dyer, L.A. and P.D. Coley. 2001. Latitudinal gradients in tri-trophic interactions. Pages 67-88 in: Tscharntke, T. and Hawkins, B.A. (editors). Multitrophic Level Interactions. Cambridge University Press.
  • Dyer, L.A., Dodson, C.D., Beihoffer, J. and D.K. Letourneau. 2001. Trade offs in anti-herbivore defenses in Piper cenocladum: ant mutualists versus plant secondary metabolites. J. Chem. Ecol 27:581-592.
  • Dodson, C.D., Dyer, L.A., Searcy, J., Wright, Z., and D.K. Letourneau. 2000. Cenocladamide, a dihydropyridone alkaloid from Piper cenocladum. Phytochemistry 53:51-54.
  • Dyer, L.A., Williams, W., Dodson, C., and D.K. Letourneau. 2000. A commensalism between Piper marginatum Jacq. (Piperaceae) and a coccinellid beetle. Journal of Tropical Ecology 15:841-846.
  • Dyer, L.A. 2000. Cybernetic insect outbreaks. Ecology 81:3262-3263. Dyer, L.A. and D.K. Letourneau. 1999. Trophic cascades in a complex, terrestrial community. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 96:5072-5076.
  • Dyer, L.A. and D.K. Letourneau. 1999. Relative strengths of top-down and bottom-up forces in a tropical forest community. Oecologia 119:265-274.
  • Dyer, L.A. and Gentry, G. 1999. Larval defensive mechanisms as predictors of successful biological control. Ecological Applications 9:402-408.
  • Letourneau, D.K. and L.A. Dyer. 1998. Density patterns of Piper ant-plants and associated arthropods: Top predator cascades in a terrestrial system? Biotropica 30:162-169.
  • Letourneau, D.K. and L.A. Dyer. 1998. Experimental manipulations in lowland tropical forest demonstrate top-down cascades through four trophic levels. Ecology 79:1678-1687.
  • Dyer, L.A. 1997. Effectiveness of caterpillar defenses against three species of invertebrate predators. Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 34:48-68.
  • Dyer, L.A. and M.D. Bowers. 1996. The importance of sequestered iridoid glycosides as a defense against an ant predator. Journal of Chem. Ecology 22:1527-1539.
  • Folgarait, P.J., L.A. Dyer, R.J. Marquis, and H.E. Braker. 1996. Leaf-cutting ant (Atta cephalotes) preferences for five native tropical plantation tree species growing under different light conditions. Ent. Exp. et App. 80:521-531.
  • Dyer, L.A. 1995. Tasty generalists and nasty specialists? A comparative study of antipredator mechanisms in tropical lepidopteran larvae. Ecology 76:1483-1496.
  • De la Fuente, M.A., L.A. Dyer, and M.D. Bowers. 1994. The iridoid glycoside, catalpol, as a deterrent to the predator Camponotus floridanus (Formicidae). Chemoecology 5/6:13-18.
  • Dyer, L.A. and T. Floyd. 1993. Determinants of predation on phytophagous insects: the importance of diet breadth. Oecologia 96:575-582.