Karen Kester is an entomologist who specializes in insect behavior and ecology. Her major research interest is the behavioral and evolutionary ecology of tritrophic interactions involving parasitic wasps, their caterpillar hosts, and the plants on which their hosts feed. This work focuses on how adaptations of parasitic wasps to host foodplants can lead to local adaptation and host race formation, and the role of learning in these microevolutionary processes. In addition, she investigates mechanisms of speciation in braconid wasps. Another research interest is the use of insects and other arthropods for surveillance of harmful agents of human importance in the environment. Kester teaches entomology, animal-plant interactions, sustainable agriculture, and other courses in ecology and evolution.
Karen received the VCU Distinguished Teaching Award on August 29, 2019.