Anthony Cognato, Professor

Anthony Cognato

PhD - University of California, Berkeley (1998)
MS - State University of New York, College of Environmental Science & Forestry (1995)
BS - State University of New York, College of Environmental Science & Forestry (1992)

Natural Science Bldg.
288 Farm Lane Room 445A
East Lansing, MI 48824

Phone: 517-432-2369

Holistic Insect Systemantics Laboratory


I enjoy studying insect diversity and a sharing my knowledge and excitement with others. Over 20 years, I have developed an international research program in insect systematics and collection stewardship. My research program has been continuously funded since 2003, which has helped me to educate graduate and undergraduate students, revitalize the A.J. Cook Arthropod Research Collection, and revise the study of bark beetle systematics.

Current assignment: Teaching 20% | Research 80%

Program Description


As an educator, much of my time and resources are focused on advancing the knowledge and skills of my graduate students. I believe that an investment in our graduate students is an investment in MSU. These students provide the intellectual fodder and physical labor, which often leads to innovative and productive research. I have advised eight Ph.D. and eight masters’ students. I also served (and serve) on graduate student committees for several other departments. I encourage students to pursue their own systematic research interests within the context of my research program. This has led to my collaboration on nine non-bark beetle research topics ranging from termites to ants. These collaborations not only benefited my research program and MSU’s reputation, but also broadened my reputation as an insect systematist. I currently teach graduate classes in Taxonomy of Adult Insects and Spider Biology. My philosophical objective in classroom teaching is to strengthen independent thinking among graduate students. To instill this objective, I restructured the taxonomy course and designed the spider class so to incorporate modern pedagogical methods such as learner-centered teaching.


Systematics is the study of organismal diversity, relationships and the classification of these relationships. It forms the foundation for the biological sciences through the creation of a common communication system concerning all life. Without a means to identify a study organism, the replication of biological experiments or the management of pests would not be possible. In addition, knowledge of organismal relationships (phylogenetics) provides a predictive framework for studies concerning species biology, ecology and evolution. My research program focuses on bark beetles (Scolytinae). In general, bark beetles function ecologically as decomposers of wood. However, some aggressive species and, to a lesser extent, benign species kill live trees, especially during periods of environmental stress. These pests cause severe economic and ecological losses, which often equates to millions of dollars. However, efforts to study and/or control this group are hampered by a lack of taxonomic knowledge. Hence my current taxonomic research of tropical bark beetles increases the knowledge of species diversity, the relationships among the species, and results in better means for their identification. Other scientists and diagnosticians use these results to improve surveys for potential pests. In addition, I educate national and international technicians, undergraduates, and graduate students in the identification and systematics of bark beetles. Thereby, perpetuating knowledge of these beetles through space and time.


  • Holistic Insect Systemtatics

Professional Experience

  • 2006-Present - Asst., Assoc., Full Professor, Dept. of Entomology, Michigan State University
  • 2000-2006 - Assistant Professor, Dept. of Entomology, Texas A&M University
  • 1999-2000 - Post-doctoral Researcher, Dept. of Entomology Biology, The Natural History Museum, London/Imperial College

Current Publications (90 total)

  • Cognato, A.I. 2015. Platypus cylindricus Burmeister, 1831, in reference to a Baltic Amber fossil, is an unavailable name (Coleoptera: Curculionidae: Platypodinae). Coleopterists Bulletin, in press.
  • Cognato, A.I., A. Cuerrier, K. Among-Nyarko, L. Hermanutz, and V. Mardones. 2015. The occurrence of Dryocoetes krivolutzkajae (Coleoptera: Curculionidae: Scolytinae) in Canada: a potential pest of cultivated roseroot (Rhodiola rosea L.). Canadian Entomologist, in press.
  • Cognato, A.I. 2015. Biology, systematics, and evolution of Ips. Pp. 351-370. In: Vega, F.E.and R.W. Hofstetter (Eds). Bark Beetles: Biology and Ecology of Native and Invasive Species. Elsevier Inc., San Diego. [peer reviewed]
  • DeMarco, B.B. and A.I. Cognato. 2015. Phylogenetic analysis of Aphaenogaster supports the resurrection of Novomessor (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Annals of the Entomological Society of America, in press.
  • Hulcr, J., T.H. Atkinson, A.I. Cognato, B.H. Jordal, and D.D. McKenna. 2015. Morphology, Taxonomy and Phylogenetics of Bark Beetles. Pp. 41-84. In: Vega, F.E. and R.W. Hofstetter (Eds) Bark Beetles: Biology and Ecology of Native and Invasive Species. Elsevier Inc., San Diego. [peer reviewed]
  • Jordal, B.J., S.M. Smith, and A.I. Cognato. 2014. Classification of weevils as a data-driven science: leaving opinion behind. Zookeys, 439: 1-18.
  • Olson, R.L.O., R.E. Farris, N.B. Barr, and A.I. Cognato. 2014. Molecular identification of Trogoderma granarium (Coleoptera: Dermestidae) using the 16s gene. Journal of Pest Science, 87:701-710.
  •  Smith, A.D., J.S. Wilson, and A.I. Cognato. 2014. The evolution of Batesian mimicry within the North American Asidini (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae). Cladistics, DOI: 10.1111/cla.12101.
  • Stilwell, A.R., S.M. Smith, A.I. Cognato, M. Martinez, W. Flowers. 2014. Coptoborus ochromactonus, n. sp. (Coleoptera: Curculionidae: Scolytinae), an emerging pest of cultivated balsa (Ochroma pyramidale) in Ecuador. Journal of Economic Entomology, 107: 675-683. Figure used as cover art for issue.
  • Avtzis, D.N. and A. I. Cognato. 2013. Phylogeography and population dynamics of Curculio elephas Gyll. (Coleoptera, Curculionidae), a weevil pest of sweet chestnut, Castanea sativa Mill., in Greece. Journal of Pest Science 86: 491-497.