M. Eric Benbow
Department of Entomology
288 Farm Lane
East Lansing, MI 48824
Area of Expertise:
Insect-microbe interactions in aquatic, disease and forensic ecological systems
PhD - University of Dayton (1999)
BS - University of Dayton (1994)
I am a community ecologist, studying how complex communities (e.g., aquatic or carrion insects or microbes) contribute to ecological systems and can understanding these communities can be used in various applications in medicine, disease and environmental management. One of the largest community ecology studies related to human health has been the Human Microbiome Project that showed that much of the human body is made up of a wide diversity of prokaryotic cells and that these communities have significant importance to human health. In a related fashion within entomology, my lab asks three general questions: 1) Is insect fitness influenced by the community of microbes living in or on them?; 2) What are the ecological interactions of insects with the microbial communities associated with their habitat or food resources?; and, 3) How can this information be used to inform resources management, human health and forensics? With a joint appointment in the College of Osteopathic Medicine, my lab seeks to answer these insect-microbe questions for translation into human health applications. Given the rich history of research in insect-microbe interactions that has focused on vectoring pathogens and co-evolved symbionts, coupled with the advanced ability to identify culturable and non-culturable bacteria using high throughput sequencing, a new generation of inquiry into the importance of the insect microbiome and their interactions in nature has tremendous potential for insect science. It is within this realm of inquiry where my students and I test explicit hypotheses at the individual, population and community levels to better understand the importance of insect-microbe interactions to the ecology and evolution of carrion, aquatic biology, forensics and disease systems. The research in my lab centers on the applied ecology of insect–microbial interactions within three systems: carrion decomposition (and forensics), aquatic ecological networks and disease systems.
Current assignment: Teaching 30% | Research 70%
I enjoy teaching. This has been realized over a long and successful teaching career that included formal teaching assignments at MSU from 2003-2007, and the development and teaching of many courses at two previous universities. Since returning to MSU in January 2014, I have taught several graduate seminar courses related to aquatic insects, insects in decomposition and forensics. I also teach Aquatic Entomology and Forensic Entomology on a rotating basis each fall semester. I plan on developing and teaching a 1-3 credit our graduate seminar course each spring, with a rotating specific topic related to the broad concept of insects, disease and the human condition and the ecology of insects, microbes and their interactions.
The research in my lab focusing on carrion decomposition (and forensics), aquatic ecological networks and disease systems has been funded by nationally competitive, regional and local grants. The impact of the latest grant that was funded resulted in several media interviews. Publications have been in several high profile journals including Trends in Ecology and Evolution, the Annual Review of Entomology, Ecological Monographs, Scientific Reports, Environmental Microbiology and PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases. In addition to these publications, my lab continues to produce collaborative peer reviewed publications in excellent journals such as Animal Behavior, Freshwater Biology and Environmental Research Letters, in addition to mainstream entomological journals such as the Journal of Medical Entomology, Ecological Entomology and Environmental Entomology. The annual citation rate continues to increase (see Google Scholar as example: https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=IKRkWHgAAAAJ&hl=en).
- Aquatic Entomology and Disease Ecology
- Insect-Microbe Interactions
- Microbiome Ecosystems Ecology
- Decomposition Ecology and Forensics
- 2015-Present – Associate Professor of Entomology, Michigan State University
- 2013-2015 – Assistant Professor of Entomology, Michigan State University
- 2013-Present – Adjunct Professor, Texas of Entomology, Texas A&M University
- 2008-2013 – Assistant Professor of Biology, University of Dayton
- 2006-2008 – Assistant Professor of Entomology, Fixed Term, Michigan State University
- 2005-2006 – Assistant Professor of Biology, DePauw University
- 2001-2003 – Visiting Research Associate, Entomology, Michigan State University
- Carter, DO, JK Tomberlin, ME Benbow, JL Metcalf (Eds). 2017. Forensic Microbiology. John Wiley & Sons, Limited, West Sussex, UK, pp. 391.
- Benbow, ME, JK Tomberlin, AM Tarone, (Eds). 2015. Carrion ecology, evolution and their applications. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, pp. 577.
- Tomberlin, JK, ME Benbow, (Eds). 2015. Forensic Entomology: International Dimensions and Frontiers. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, pp. 443.
- Benbow, ME, PS Barton, MD Ulyshen, JC Beasley, TL DeVault, MS Strickland, JK Tomberlin, HR Jordan, JL Pechal. 2018. Necrobiome framework for bridging decomposition ecology of autotrophically and heterotrophically-derived organic matter. Ecological Monographs (in press)
- Pechal, JL, CJ Schmidt, HR Jordan, ME Benbow. 2018. A large-scale survey of the postmortem human microbiome, and its potential to provide insight into the living health condition. Nature Scientific Reports 8:5724 DOI:10.1038/s41598-018-23989-w
- McNeish, RE, ME Benbow, RW McEwan. 2018. Riparian invasion of Lonicera maackii influences throughfall chemistry and rainwater availability. Ecological Restorationorg/10.1007/s11284-018-1620-2
- Weatherbee, CR, JL Pechal, ME Benbow. 2017. The dynamic maggot mass microbiome. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 110(1):45-53. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aesa/saw088
- McNeish, RE, ME Benbow, RW McEwan. 2017. Removal of an invasive shrub (Lonicera maackii) from a headwater stream riparian zone shifts taxonomic and functional composition of the aquatic biota. Invasive Plant Science and Management (published online). org/10.1017/inp.2017.22 [IF = 1.21] (Featured on Cover)(Highlighted in Cambridge Core Blog)
- Benbow, ME, JL Pechal, JM Lang, R Erb, JR Wallace. 2015. The potential of high-throughput metagenomic sequencing of aquatic bacterial communities to estimate the postmortem submersion interval. Journal of Forensic Sciences 60(6):1500-1510 PMID: 26294275
- Pechal, JL, ME Benbow. 2016. Microbial ecology of the salmon necrobiome: Evidence salmon carrion decomposition influences aquatic and terrestrial insect microbiomes. Environmental Microbiology 18:1511-1522 doi:10.1111/1462-2920.13187 PMID: 26690563
- Benbow, ME, JL Pechal, JM Lang, R Erb, JR Wallace. 2015. The potential of high-throughput metagenomic sequencing of aquatic bacterial communities to estimate the postmortem submersion interval. Journal of Forensic Sciences 60(6):1500-1510
- Pechal, JL, ME Benbow, TL Crippen, A Tarone, JK Tomberlin. 2014. Delayed insect colonization alters vertebrate carrion necrophagous community assembly and decomposition. Ecosphere. 5(4): art45.
- Benbow, ME, RK Kimbirauskus, MD McIntosh, HR Williamson, C Quaye, D Boakye, PLC Small, RW Merritt. 2014. Aquatic macroinvertebrate assemblages of Ghana, West Africa: understanding the ecology of Buruli ulcer disease. EcoHealth 11(2):168-183.
- Benbow, ME, AJ Lewis, JK Tomberlin, JL Pechal. 2013. Seasonal necrophagous insect community assembly during carrion decomposition. Journal of Medical Entomology 50(2):440-450.
- van Ravensway, J, ME Benbow, AA Tsonis, S Pierce, LP Campbell, JAM Fyfe, JA Hayman, PDR Johnson, JR Wallace, J Qi. 2012. Climate and landscape factors associated with Buruli ulcer incidence in Victoria, Australia. PLoS ONE 7(12): e51074.
- Tomberlin, JK, R Mohr, ME Benbow, AM Tarone, S Vanlaerhoven. 2011. A roadmap for bridging basic and applied research in forensic entomology. Annual Review of Entomology 56:401-421.
- Tomberlin, JK, ME Benbow, AM Tarone, R Mohr. 2011. Basic research in evolution and ecology enhances forensics. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 26(2):53-55.
The National Academies of Sciences, Medicine and Engineering Reports (peer-reviewed)
- The National Academies of Sciences, Medicine and Engineering. 2018. Review of the Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan: Report 3. Committee to Review Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan. Water Science and Technology Board, Division on Earth and Life Studies. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. 164 pg. The National Academies Press, Washington D.C. (ME Benbow as a member of 12 scientist committee that authored this report)
- The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. 2017. Review of the Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan: Report 2. Committee to Review Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan. Water Science and Technology Board, Division on Earth and Life Studies. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. 164 pg. The National Academies Press, Washington D.C. (ME Benbow as a member of 12 scientist committee that authored this report)
- National Research Council Committee, National Academy of Science. 2015. Review of the Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan: Report 1. Committee to Review Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan. Water Science and Technology Board, Division on Earth and Life Studies. National Research Council of the National Academies. 173 pg. The National Academies Press, Washington D.C. (ME Benbow member of a 12 scientist committee that authored this report)