Spencer Pote

Graduate Researcher

 Contact Info 
Office: Gilmore 607
E-mail: slpote [at] hawaii [dot] edu

Research Interests: Phylogenetics; Taxonomy; Biogeography; Evolution; Ecology; Conservation; Tephritoidea

Research Overview

My research in the Rubinoff lab aims to document the diversity of native Trupanea (Diptera: Tephritidae) of Hawaiʻi, which comprises an endemic radiation restricted to native Hawaiian Asteraceae as their host plants. These flies have evolved a variety of largely novel life histories for their genus, including stem gall production and shoot-tip mining. There are at least five known undescribed species, which I aim to describe in a taxonomic revision of the radiation. In addition, some introduced Tephritidae have been collected from native Asteraceae, but their distribution and relative population sizes to native Trupanea have not been examined. Finally, no phylogeny has been created using orthologous nuclear genes, so the evolution and biogeography of this group has not been resolved. Because all of these flies depend on native plants that are threatened or endangered, it is imperative that Hawaiian Trupanea be studied as soon as possible to resolve these questions.


B.A. in Biological Sciences, Concentration in Insect Biology; Minor in Music, Cornell University (2022)

Previous Research

O'Grady Lab [10/2018~5/2022]:
Research assistant in lab of Patrick O’Grady at Cornell University. Engaged in multiple research projects spanning techniques of insect curation, PCR, DNA extraction, DNA alignment, and recreating phylogenies using genetic data.

Smithsonian (USNHM) Insect Collection [1/2023~3/2023]:
Intern curator at Smithsonian Insect Collection, focusing on curating Trupanea holdings, taking reference photographs of Acalyptratae flies using stacking camera equipment, and starting a worldwide taxonomic revision of Amphicnephes (Diptera: Platystomatidae).

Cornell University Insect Collection [1/2019~5/2022]:
Undergraduate curator in Cornell University Insect Collection, with wide areas of work. Fully curated the Tephritoidea, Empidoidea, and various Acalyptrate families within the CUIC. In conjunction with the O’Grady Lab, also worked 200+ hours on a full taxonomic update of all Diptera in the CUIC.


  • 2022: Upper Peninsula [UNDERC] of Michigan / Northern Arizona
  • 2023: Southeastern [SWRS] and Northern [Flagstaff] Arizona


Pote S.L., O'Grady P. 2023. "A New Species of Anticheta (Diptera: Sciomyzidae) from México". Zootaxa 5293(2): 277-293. DOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.5293.2.4

Eiseman C.S., Norrbom A.L., Pote S.L., Sutton B.D., Steck G. J. 2023. “A Review of the Leaf-Mining Fruit Flies (Diptera: Tephritidae) of Canada and the USA, with New Host Plant and Distribution Records”. Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington. In review.