M. Eric Benbow

M. Eric Benbow

Telephone: 517-410-9247

Department of Entomology

Associate Professor

243 Natural Science Bldg.
288 Farm Lane
East Lansing, MI 48824


PhD - University of Dayton (1999)
BS - University of Dayton (1994)

See a list of Eric Benbow's publications on Google Scholar.

Benbow Lab


I am a community ecologist, studying how complex communities (e.g., aquatic insects or microbes) change, are distributed and 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 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% 

Program Description


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 courses at two previous universities. Since returning to MSU in January 2014, I taught a graduate seminar course titled Insects, Disease and Natural Resources Management and gave several guest lectures. In the future, I also teach Aquatic Entomology and Insect Ecology 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 is 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, 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

Professional Experience

  • 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 

Selected Publications


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.


  • 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.

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