Jonathan Z. Shik

Jonathan Z. Shik

Associate Professor



I am an integrative evolutionary ecologist exploring how physiological traits govern species co-existence. Funded by an ERC Starting Grant, I have developed complementary approaches focusing on eco-physiology and nutritional ecology to study how the performance of diverse organisms in communities varies across environmental gradients in light of climate change. This interdisciplinary research combines fieldwork, lab experiments, genetic/genomic approaches and theory development. My favorite study organisms are the ants, which enable me and my collaborators to test hypotheses across levels of biological organization, from genes in genomes, to cells in multicellular bodies, to individuals in societies and symbioses. Trillions of ants inhabit diverse habitats across the planet, providing a rich canvas on which to apply integrative approaches from metabolic respirometry, to stable isotopes, to comparative genomics.





Assistant Professor

Section for Ecology and Evolution, Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen, Universitetsparken 15, 2100 Copenhagen, Denmark 

Research Associate

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Apartado 0843-03092, Balboa, Ancon, Republic of Panama


PhD, University of Oklahoma (2010)

B.Sc., McGill University (2003)


2019-present: Research Associate, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

2018-present: Assistant Professor, Centre for Social Evolution, University of Copenhagen

2016-2018: Postdoctoral Researcher, Centre for Social Evolution, University of Copenhagen

2014-2016: Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow, Centre for Social Evolution, University of Copenhagen

2013-2014: Postdoctoral Fellow, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

2011-2013: Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Entomology, North Carolina State University

2010: Research Associate, University of Oklahoma and Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

2009: Research Fellow: Alumni Fellowship, University of Oklahoma



2019-present: Associate Editor, Journal of Animal Ecology


SELECTED GRANTS & AWARDS: (TOTAL FUNDING 2005 – 2020 (€ 1,850,000; $ 2,110,00)

2017 European Research Council Starting Grant (ERC StG) [€1.5 million ($1,700)]

2014 EU Marie Curie International Incoming Postdoctoral Fellowship [€240,000 ($274,000)]

2013 Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Postdoctoral Fellowship [€55,000 ($63,000)]

2012 National Inst. for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis, short term research grant [€1700 ($2000)]

2005-2010 Alumni Fellowship, University of Oklahoma [€22,000 ($25,000), renewed annually]



• 30 publications in peer-reviewed journals

• 2 invited review papers

• 30 contributed oral presentations and posters at international meetings and as departmental seminars

• 40 invited departmental seminars and talks in conference symposia



Audrey Dussutour (CNRS, Université Paul Sabatier, Toulouse, France)

William Wcislo (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama)

Juan Santos (St. John’s University, USA)

Xavier Arnan (CREAF Centre for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications, Spain)

Rachelle Adams (The Ohio State University, USA)

Xim Cerda (Doñana Biological Station, Spanish National Research Council)

David Donoso (Escuela Politecnica Nacional, Quito, Ecuador)



2020 [delayed, corona virus]

-Liverpool University (UK)

-Symposium on Communal Nutrition, International Union for the Study of Social Insects (Toulouse, France)



-Danish Oikos Society (Aarhus, Denmark)

-Lund University (Lund, Sweden)

-Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Tupper Seminar (Panama)

-Centre for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate (Copenhagen, Denmark)

-Symposium: Latest frontiers in the nutritional ecology of social insects, Entomological Society of America (Vancouver, Canada)



-North Carolina State University (USA)

-University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (USA)

-California State University Fresno (USA)

-Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel)

-University of Pierre and Marie Curie, Paris (France)

-University of Regensberg (Germany)

-Symposium on Physiological responses to environmental change, International Congress for Entomology (USA)

-Michigan State University (USA)

-University of Scranton (USA)

-Jodrell Laboratory, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (UK)


TEACHING (since 2018)

Invasion Biology (course coordinator) spring 2018, 2019

Advanced Ecology (assistant coordinator) spring 2019, 2020

Evolutionary Ecology (assistant coordinator) fall 2018, 2019

Population Biology (lecturer) fall 2018

Macroecology (lecturer) fall 2019

Fungal Ecology (lecturer) spring 2018


Graduate-level field course co-organizer:

Tropical Behavioural Ecology and Evolution, field course at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama: April - May 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017



Introduction to University Pedagogy (IUP) (2017) at the Department of Science Education, University of Copenhagen.

Planned (Fall 2020): Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (Adjunktpædagogikum) at the Department of Science Education, University of Copenhagen


SUPERVISING at the University of Copenhagen


Ongoing and new postdoctoral projects

-Caio Leal-Dutra (starts 2020): Genomics and evolution of the domesticated cultivars of leafcutter ants

-Benjamin Conlon (starts 2020): Physiological and molecular ecology of a complex symbiosis

-Antonin Crumiere (September 2018 – September 2020): Community ecology of fungus-farming ants


Ongoing and new graduate & undergraduate projects

-Sophie Mallett: Bachelors thesis: “Nutritional plasticity in the gongylidia of Leucoagricus gongylophorus fungus

-David O’Tuama: Masters, “Nutritional processing by fungal cultivars of farming ants

-Calum Stephenson: Masters, “Nutritional interactions within a complex symbiosis

-Pol Lannes Salvado: Masters, “The use of insect frass as fungal substrate by lower attine farmers

*Celia Izquierdo: Research Technician (starts June 2020)

*Jade Cefai: Bachelors student from Polytech Montpellier (France) (starts September 2020)

*Sandi Saric & Evita Norkute: joint Bachelors thesis (starts September 2020)


Graduated students


-Piet Nielsen & Enzo Buhl Langkilde: Bachelors thesis: “Liquid media approaches to studying nutrient consumption by insect-pathogenic fungi as they invade their hosts



-Zsuzsanna Csontos: Masters thesis, “The nutritional basis of host specificity in insect pathogens”

-Pol Lannes Salvado Bachelors thesis: “The ecology of frass harvest in Panamanian attine ants”

-Sebastian Kuford: Bachelors thesis, “Sperm production by male attine ants

-Aidan James: Bachelors thesis, “Developing nutritional media to test evolutionary hypotheses with fungus from leafcutter ant colonies”

-Calum Stephenson: Bachelors thesis, “Chemical communication between ants and their fungal cultivars

-Nathan Cyrille: Bachelors student from Université Paris-Saclay (France): “Excretory behavior of fungus-growing ‘attine’ ants



-Maria Scotwin: Bachelors thesis, “The nutritional ecology of crop domestication in fungus farming ants

-Mads Wolter Nielsen: Masters thesis, “Nutrient flow in Acromyrmex colonies

-Birla Krabbe: Bachelors thesis, “Defining an ant’s nutritional niche in three dimensions

-Christoffer Bergstedt: Bachelors thesis, “The nutritional ecology of invasive Monomorium ants

-Winnie Rytter: Masters thesis, “Fungus-farming ant nutritional ecology

-Hugo Merienne: visiting PhD student from the Research Center on Animal Cognition at the University Paul Sabatier (Toulouse, France), “Insect metabolic physiology

-Cristele Sanchez Oms: visiting PhD student from the University of Tours (France), ‘Insect metabolic physiology


SELECTED PUBLICATIONS (see for full publication list)

[impact factor]H-INDEX = 13, I10-INDEX = 17; TOTAL CITATIONS = 356 (GOOGLE SCHOLAR, 315 excluding self citations), * = graduate student; ** = undergraduate student



Shik JZ, Dussutour A. (In Press) Nutritional dimensions of invasive success. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, X:X-X.


Crumiere AJJ, Stephenson CJ, Nagel M, Shik JZ (2020) Using nutritional geometry to explore how social insects navigate nutritional landscapes. Insects, 11(1) doi: 10.3390/insects11010053.  [invited review]


Krabbe, B.A.**, Arnan, X., Lannes, P.**, Echtvad Bergstedt, C.**, Stenbak Larsen, R., Pedersen, J.S., Shik, J.Z. (2019) Using nutritional geometry to define the fundamental macronutrient niche of the widespread invasive ant Monomorium pharaonis. PLoS One, 14: e0218764.


Shik JZ, Arnan X, Oms CS*, Cerda X, Boulay R (2019) Evidence for locally adaptive metabolic rates among ant populations along an elevation gradient. Journal of Animal Ecology, 88:1240-1249.


Rodrigues da Costa R*, Vreeburg SME*, Shik JZ, Aanen DK, Poulsen M (2019) Can interaction specificity in the fungus-farming termite symbiosis be explained by nutritional requirements of the crop fungi? Fungal Ecology, 38:54-61.



Sapountzis P, Zhukova M, Shik JZ, Schiøtt M, Boomsma JJ (2018) Reconstructing the symbiotic functions of intestinal Mollicutes in fungus-growing ants. eLife, 7:e39209.


Shik JZ, Rytter W*, Arnan X, Michelsen A (2018) Disentangling nutritional pathways linking leafcutter ants and their co-evolved fungal symbionts using stable isotopes. Ecology, 99:1999-2009.



Shik JZ, Gomez EB**, Kooij PW*, Santos JC, Wcislo WT, Boomsma JJ (2016) Nutrition mediates the expression of cultivar-farmer conflict in a fungus-growing ant. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 113:10121-10126.


Rytter W*, Shik JZ (2016) Liquid foraging behavior in leafcutting ants: The lunchbox hypothesis. Animal Behaviour, 117:179-186.


Shik JZ, Santos JC, Seal JN, Kay A, Mueller UG, Kaspari M (2014) Metabolism and the rise of fungus cultivation by ants. American Naturalist, 184:364-373.


Before 2013

Shik J.Z., Donoso DD, Kaspari M (2013) The life history continuum hypothesis links traits of male ants with life outside the nest. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata, 149:99-109. [invited review]


Shik JZ, Silverman J (2013) Towards a nutritional ecology of invasive establishment: aphid mutualists provide better fuel for incipient Argentine ant colonies than insect prey. Biological Invasions, 15:829-836.


Shik JZ, Hou C, Kay A, Kaspari M, Gillooly JF (2012) Toward a general life history model of the superorganism: predicting the survival, growth, and reproduction of ant societies. Biology Letters, 8:1059-1062.


Shik JZ (2010) The metabolic costs of building ant colonies from variably sized subunits. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 64:1981-1990.


Shik JZ, Kaspari M (2010) More food, less habitat: how necromass and leaf litter decomposition combine to regulate a litter ant community. Ecological Entomology, 35:158-165.


Shik JZ (2008) Ant colony size and the scaling of reproductive effort. Functional Ecology, 22:674-681.



Reviewer: Peer-Reviewed Journals (average 14 reviews per year)

Acta Ethologica, Agricultural and Forest Entomology, Animal Behaviour, Arthropod-Plant Interactions, Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, Biological Invasions, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, Biology Letters, Current Zoology, Ecography, Ecological Entomology, Ecology, Ecology and Evolution, Ecology Letters, Ecosystems, Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata, Environmental Entomology, European Journal of Entomology, Evolution, Evolutionary Biology, Functional Ecology, Global Change Biology, Insect Conservation and Diversity, Insects, Insectes Sociaux, Journal of Animal Ecology, Journal of Applied Entomology, Journal of Asia-Pacific Entomology, Journal of Insect Behavior, Journal of Insect Physiology, Journal of Insect Science, Journal of Thermal Biology, Myrmecological News, Naturwissenschaften, Oecologia, Oikos, PeerJ, PLoS One, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Rangeland Ecology and Management, Revista Brasileira de Entomologia, Scientific Reports


Reviewer: Grant Agencies

European Research Council (ERC, Advanced Grants), National Science Foundation (USA), Sapere Aude (Denmark), US-Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund (BARD: US-Israel), Binational Science Foundation (BSF: US-Israel), Austrian Science Fund


Grant Review Panels

Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, I. P. (FCT) (Reviewed 25 proposals (15 as lead reviewer) for the Central Portuguese Funding Agency, April 2018)


Current Professional Affiliations

International Union for the Study of Social Insects, British Ecological Society, Danish Oikos Society


Symposium Organizer

2020: Insect eco-physiology, International Congress for Entomology (every 4th year), Helsinki, Finland [postponed until 2021]

2018: Social insect eco-physiology across scales, International Union for the Study of Social Insects (every 4th year), Guaruja, Brazil

2016: Physiological responses to environmental change, International Congress for Entomology (every 4th year), Orlando, Florida, USA


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