Research Interests

I am fascinated by symbioses and am particularly interested in how and why they evolve. However, I have a special love for parasites. My research interests include parasitology, evolutionary ecology, coevolution, host-parasite interactions and phenotypic plasticity.

I completed my MSc. under Dr. Jaqueline Bird at Northern Michigan University where I investigated ecological aspects of chewing lice (Pthiraptera) in a population of brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater).

My Ph.D. research explores the ecology and evolution of parasitism using a facultatively parasitic mite (Macrocheles muscaedomesticae) and fly host (Drosophila hydei) system. After experimentally evolving increased infectiousness in the mites, I was curious as to how the facultatively parasitic behaviour is maintained in nature. By comparing traits like fecundity, longevity and infection-plasticity, I hope to determine whether critical evolutionary trade-offs constrain the evolution of more permanent associations between the mites and their hosts.


  • Durkin, E.S. and Luong, L.T. In review. Life history of Macrocheles muscaedomesticae (Parasitiformes: Macrochelidae): new insights on life history and evidence of facultative parasitism on Drosophila. Submitted Experimental and Applied Acarology.
  • Durkin, E.S. and Luong, L.T. 2019. Phenotypic plasticity more essential to maintaining variation in host-attachment behaviour than evolutionary trade-offs in a facultatively parasitic mite. Parasitology,
  • Durkin, E.S. and Luong, L.T. 2018. Experimental evolution of infectious behaviour in a facultative ectoparasite. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 31: 362-370.
  • Durkin, E.S., Luong, L.T., and Bird, J. 2015. Mechanisms underlying parasite infection: influence of host body mass and age on chewing louse distribution among brown-headed cowbirds. Parasitology Research 114: 4169-4174.

Contact Information:
Emily Durkins, PhD student
Lab: B-322 Biological Sciences Bldg.
Office: B 205

Note: Emily graduated in January 2019 and is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Florida.