Vonnie Shields

Professor and Associate Dean


Contact Info

Science Complex, Room 4109

Areas of Expertise

Anatomy and physiology of gustatory and olfactory sense organs


All animals detect and react to chemicals in their external environment. Recent evidence suggests that the basic processing of chemosensory information is similar in invertebrates and vertebrates. Consequently, using insects as model systems has implications for chemosensory research on species in diverse animal phyla and allow us to gain insights into the fundamental processing of sensory information in the brain. Chemosensory cues, such as odor and taste stimuli, play pivotal roles for insects in selecting food sources, mates, and oviposition sites.

One main line of research in my lab is directed towards exploring the importance of gustatory cues in the selection of food sources by carrying out feeding behavioral and electrophysiological studies on larval insects (Order Lepidoptera). In addition, the structural organization of these gustatory organs is being examined using transmission electron- and scanning electron microscopy. One potential outcome of this research is to find novel biocontrol techniques against insect pests. Another avenue of research is being directed toward understanding the sensory mechanisms by which insects detect plant-associated volatiles and how this information is processed by the olfactory system of the insect. More recently, my lab has begun to investigate the visual orientation behavior of some larvae to determine their emissive color preferences.


Shields, V. D.C. & Heinbockel, T.. 2012. Neurophysiological Recording Techniques Applied to Insect Chemosensory Systems.Pages123-162 in Oraii, S. (ed.). Electrophysiology. Intech Open Access Publisher, Rijeka, Croatia.

Martin, T. L. & Shields, V. D.C. 2012. Detection of alkaloids and carbohydrates by taste receptor cells of gypsy moth larvae, Lymantria dispar (L.) Arthropod-Plant Interactions6:519-529.

Martin, T. L. & Shields, V. D.C. 2012. An electrophysiological analysis of the effect of phagostimulant mixtures on the responses of a deterrent-sensitive cell of gypsy moth larvae, Lymantria dispar (L.)Arthropod-Plant Interactions 6: 259-267.

Courses Taught

  • Spring: 221L Humn A & P I Lab