Peter White

Assistant Professor

Peter White

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

Natural Science
288 Farm Lane Room 444
East Lansing, MI 48824

Phone: 517-353-4761

Peter JT White Website

Click here to see a list of Peter White's publications on Google Scholar.


In my most recent project, I am using aerial and satellite imagery to examine how artificial light is related to patterns of moth biodiversity and abundance across the developed cityscape of East Lansing, Michigan. I am also investigating how moth communities differ in urban versus suburban woodlots, I will be able to provide some very compelling arguments for the creation and preservation of semi-natural forest corridors across urban landscapes.

Current assignment: Teaching 75% | Research 25%

Program Description


I currently teach a graduate lab course in insect genetics.


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

  • Rice, A.J. and White, P.J.T. (in press) Community patterns in urban moth assemblages. Journal of the Lepidopterists’ Society
  • White, P.J.T., Heidemann, M. and Smith, J. (in press) A cross-course investigation of integrative cases for evolution education. Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education
  • Heidemann, M., White, P.J.T. and Smith, J.J. (2015) Evolution in action. National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University of Buffalo, NY.
  • Heidemann, M., White, P.J.T. and Smith, J.J. (2014) The evolution of color vision in monkeys: from nucleotides to ecology. National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University of Buffalo, NY.
  • Heidemann, M., White, P.J.T. and Smith, J.J. (2014) Joel E. Greengiant Learns About Peas: from nucleotides to selection. National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University of Buffalo, NY.
  • 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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