Peter White

Peter White

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Associate Professor
Department of Entomology



PhD - McGill University (2011)
MS - University of Ottawa (2005)
BS - University of Ottawa (2003)

Peter JT White Website


I am an urban moth ecologist who is interested in studying the factors that impact moth species richness and abundance in local assemblages. I am also involved in designing new research tools to facilitate more cost-effective trapping of moths, particularly in the application of low wavelength LED lights as moth attractants. My moth research program also has community connections and we have recently designed and implemented moth research science units in local middle- and elementary-schools.

Current assignment: Teaching 65% | Research 25% | Service 10%

Program Description


I teach graduate courses in insect genetics and teaching pedagogy in the Department of Entomology.
I teach introductory biology and critical thinking in Lyman Briggs College.


My research focuses on patterns of insect distribution across human-disturbed landscapes. More specifically, I investigate the biotic and abiotic drivers of moth Lepidoptera diversity, richness and abundance over moderate temporal and spatial scales. Moth Lepidoptera play a key role in forest ecosystems by converting nutrient rich leaves into resources that are accessible to detritivores (i.e. by producing frass) and secondary consumers (i.e. by being food resources themselves). Yet, in the field of Lepidoptera ecology, research has traditionally focused on conspicuous butterflies’ species, pest species, or has examined diversity patterns over very limited timescales. While this work has been important, it has not helped us understand how to manage habitat fragments to maximize moth biodiversity. The quality and quantity of urban forest fragments have declined over the past few decades and my research aims to improve our understanding of how this type of habitat change impacts the species that remain. To this end, I conduct my research within an assemblage-based framework to investigate how moth assemblages are shaped by variables such as landscape connectivity, intra-habitat disturbance, hostplant quality, matrix parameters, predator/parasitoid pressure and storm disturbances.


  • Urban Entomology and Science Education

Professional Experience

  • 2014-Present - Assistant Professor, Dept. of Entomology, Michigan State University
  • 2011-2014 - Postdoctoral Research Associate / Instructor, Lyman Briggs College, Michigan State University

Selected Publications

  • Stroupe, D., Caballero, D., and White, P. J. T. (2018) Fostering students’ epistemic agency through the co-configuration of moth research. Science Education 102: 1176-1200.
  • ^Bonner, K., Piechnik, D., Kovacs, J., Warwick, A., and White, P. J. T. (In Press) Clam spawning and Red Tide: A classroom activity that helps students learn Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium and evolution. American Biology Teacher.
  • Kirby, C., Fleming-Davis, A., and White, P. J. T. (In Press) The Figure of the Day: A Classroom Activity to Improve Students' Figure Creation Skills in Biology. American Biology Teacher.
  • White, P. J. T. (2018) An aerial approach to investigating the relationships between macromoths and nighttime lights across an urban landscape. Journal of Agriculture and Urban Entomology 34: 1-14.
  • Wonderlin, E., Ross, L.R. and White, P. J. T. (2017) Construction and performance of a novel capture-mark-release moth trap. Great Lakes Entomologist 50: 27-32.
  • White, P. J. T., Glover, K., Stewart, J. and Rice, A. (2016) The technical and performance characteristics of a low-cost, simply-constructed, black light moth trap. Journal of Insect Science 16: 1-9.
  • Rice, A.J. and White, P.J.T. (2015) Community patterns in urban moth assemblages. Journal of the Lepidopterists’ Society 69: 149-156.
  • White, P.J.T., Heidemann, M. and Smith, J. (2015) A cross-course investigation of integrative cases for evolution education. Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education 16: 157-166.
  • White, P.J.T. (2013) Testing two methods that relate herbivorous insects to host plants. Journal of Insect Science 13 (92): 1-22.
  • White, P.J.T., Heidemann, M. and Smith, J. (2013) A new approach to evolution education. BioScience 63: 586-594.
  • White, P.J.T., Heidemann, M., Loh, M. and Smith, J. (2013) Integrative cases for teaching evolution. Evolution: Education and Outreach 6: (17).
  • White, P.J.T., McGill, B. and Lechowicz, M. J. (2012) Detecting changes in forest floor habitat after canopy disturbance. Ecological Research 27: 397-406.
  • White, P.J.T., Syncox, D., Heppleston, A., Isaac, S. and Alters, B. (2012) Putting research into practice: pedagogy development workshops change the teaching philosophy of graduate students. Canadian Journal of Higher Education 42: 98-111.
  • White, P.J.T., McGill, B. and Lechowicz, M. J. (2011) Human disturbance and caterpillars in managed forest fragments. Biodiversity and Conservation 20: 1745-1762.
  • White, P.J.T., Delaney, D.G., Syncox, D., AvilaAkerberg, O. and Alters, B. (2011) Clicker implementation models. EDUCAUSE Quarterly 34(4).
  • White, P.J.T., Syncox, D. and Alters, B. (2011) Clicking for grades? Really? Investigating the use of clickers for awarding grade-points in post-secondary education institutions. Interactive Learning Environments 19: 551-561.

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