Matt Forister

Foundation Professor, Trevor J. McMinn Endowed Research Professor in Biology
Photo of Matt Forister at night with a headlamp on and a butterfly perched on his cheek.


The Forister lab works in the areas of specialization, diversification, and plant-insect ecology. Specific questions and topics include the evolution of diet breadth, evolutionary interactions across trophic levels, phenology and population regulation. We are also interested in the conservation and management of insect diversity. In the field, our research includes the Great Basin, the Sierra Nevada, and much of the western hemisphere including tropical sites. In the lab, we combine physiological and behavioral experiments with genomic sequencing of novel-model organisms.

About the Trevor J. McMinn Endowed Research Professorship in Biology

Mathematics Professor Trevor McMinn served 25 years at the University, retiring in 1988. After his passing, the University received a gift from McMinn's estate, which was used to create professorships in the College of Science. Established: 2015. (College of Science)

Select publications

  • 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)  The global distribution of diet breadth in insect herbivores.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112:442-447
  • Pardikes, N., Dyer, L. A., and Forister, M. L.  (2015)  Global weather and local butterflies: variable responses to a large-scale climate pattern along an elevational gradient.  Ecology 96:2891-2901
  • Richards, L. A., Dyer, L. A., Forister, M. L., Smilanich, A. M., Dodson, C. D., Leonard, M. D., and Jeffrey, C. S.  (2015)  Phytochemical diversity drives diversity of tropical plant-insect communities.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 112: 10973-10978
  • Wilson, J. S., Jahner, J. P., Forister, M. L., Sheehan, E. S., Williams, K. A., and Pitts, J. P.  (2015)  North American velvet ants form one of the world's largest known Mùˆllerian mimicry complexes.  Current Biology 25:R693-R710
  • Gompert, Z., Jahner, J. P., Scholl, C. F., Wilson, J. S., Lucas, L. K., Soria-Carrasco, V., Fordyce, J. A., Nice, C. C., Buerkle, C. A., Forister, M. L.  (2015)  The evolution of novel host use is not constrained by tradeoffs or a lack of genetic variation.  Molecular Ecology 24:2777-2793
  • Harrison, J. G., Shapiro, A. M., Espeset, A. E., Nice, C. C., Jahner, J. P., and Forister, M. L.  (2015)  Species with more volatile population dynamics are differentially impacted by weather.  Biology Letters 11: 20140792.
  • Gompert, Z., Lucas, L., Buerkle, C. A., Forister, M. L., Fordyce, J. A., and Nice, C. A.  (2014)  Admixture and the organization of genetic diversity in a butterfly species complex revealed through common and rare genetic variants. Molecular Ecology 23:4555-4573.
  • Nice, C. C., Forister, M. L., Gompert, Z., Fordyce, and J. A., Shapiro, A. M.  (2014)  A hierarchical perspective on the diversity of butterfly species' responses to weather across 38 years in the high Sierra Nevada mountains.  Ecology 95:2155-2168
  • Scholl, C. F., Burls, K. J., Newton, J. L., Young, B., and Forister, M. L. (2014)  Parasitism and mutualism in a lycaenid butterfly: temporal and geographic variation in parasitoid attack with no evidence for ant protection.  Ecological Entomology 39:168-176
  • Lucas, A. M., Scholl, C. F., Murphy, D. D., Tracy, C. R., Forister, M. L.  (2014)  Geographic distribution, habitat association, and host quality for one of the rarest butterflies in North America: Thorne's hairstreak (Mitoura thornei).  Insect Conservation and Diversity 7:343-354
  • Forister, M. L., Scholl, C. F. (2012) Exotic host use affects mate choice in an insect herbivore. The American Naturalist doi:10.1086/665647
  • Forister, M. L., Dyer, L. A., Singer, M. S., Stireman, J. O., and Lill, J. T. (2012) Revisiting the evolution of ecological specialization, with emphasis on insect-plant interactions. Ecology 93:981-991
  • Wilson, J. S., Forister, M. L., Dyer, L. A., O'Connor, J. M., Burls, K., Feldman, C. R., Jaramillo, M. A., Miller, J. S., and Young, B. (2012) Host conservatism, host shifts and diversification across three trophic levels in two neotropical forests. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 25:532-546
  • Jahner, J. P., Shapiro, A. M., and Forister, M. L. (2012) Drivers of hybridization in a 66-generation record from Colias butterflies. Evolution 66:818-830
  • Forister, M. L., Jahner, J. P., Casner, K. L., Wilson, J. S., and Shapiro, A. M. (2011) The race is not to the swift: long-term data reveal pervasive declines in California's low-elevation butterfly fauna. Ecology 92:2222-2235
  • Jahner, J. P., Bonilla, M. M., Badik, K. J., Shapiro, A. M., and Forister, M. L. (2011) Use of exotic hosts by lepidoptera: widespread species colonize more novel hosts. Evolution 65:2719-2724
  • Forister, M. L., Gompert, Z., Fordyce, J. A., and Nice, C. C. (2011) After sixty years, an answer to the question: what is the Karner blue butterfly? Biology Letters 7:399-402
  • Forister, M. L., Gompert, Z., Nice, C. C., Forister, G. W., and Fordyce, J. A. (2011) Ant association facilitates the evolution of diet breadth in a lycaenid butterfly. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 278:1539-1547
  • Forister, M. L., and Feldman, C. R. (2011) Phylogenetic cascades and the evolution of tropical diversity. Biotropica 43:270-278
  • Forister, M. L., McCall, A. C., Sanders, N. J., Fordyce, J. A., Thorne, J. H., O'Brien, J., Waetjen, D. P., and Shapiro, A. M. (2010) Compounded effects of climate change and habitat alteration shift patterns of butterfly diversity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107:2088-2092

Dr. Forister's Google Scholar Profile


  • Post-doctoral Research Associate, Stony Brook University, January 2005 to July 2006
  • Ph.D., Ecology, University of California, Davis, 2004