Weiss, Martha (Active)
Martha was born and raised in San Francisco and has pleasant childhood memories of tide-pooling, hunting for mushrooms, watching birds, and identifying wildflowers throughout natural and urban areas of California. She ventured to the east coast for college, majoring in geology at Harvard; there she took a number of natural history courses that solidified her interests in botany and ecology. She returned to the San Francisco Bay area after graduation, and worked for the California Coastal Commission on projects including oil spill prevention and mitigation. She also spent several summers as a naturalist at a kids' science camp in rural northern California. After 4 years away from school, she returned to UC Berkeley's Botany department, where she joined the pollination biology lab of Herbert and Irene Baker. Her dissertation research, which addressed the phenomenon of floral color change, led her into the intriguing fields of entomology and insect behavior. During a post-doctoral fellowship at the Center for Insect Science in Tucson, she studied caterpillar and insect behavior with Liz Bernays and Dan Papaj, and came to love the Sonoran desert. Martha joined the Biology department at Georgetown University in 1995. At Georgetown she carries out a research program in which she investigates behavioral interactions among plants, pollinators, herbivores, and predators over ecological and evolutionary time scales. Projects have included investigations of color, pattern, and shape learning in butterflies, prey recognition by predatory wasps, the ecology of defecation behaviors in insects, and the persistence of memory across metamorphosis in Lepidoptera. Currently, she and her colleague John Lill at George Washington University are investigating top-down and bottom-up determinants of host range in Lepidoptera. At Georgetown Martha teaches both small and large classes, and mentors undergraduate and graduate researchers in her lab. She is active in her daughters’ public school science classrooms, and has discovered many synergisms between K-12 and higher education. Some of her best ideas for teaching at Georgetown have come from her time in the elementary school classroom, and vice versa. She lives in DC with her husband Joshua, and their two daughters, Annie and Isabel. Martha was elected into the Washington Biologists’ Field Club in 2014.