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Ian Robertson, Ph.D.

Dr. Ian Robertson

Year arrived at BSU: 2000

Mailing Address:
Department of Biological Sciences
Boise State University
Boise, ID 83725-1515

Office Location: Science Building, Room 130
Office Number: 208-426-2394
Fax Number: 208-426-1040
E-Mail Address:


B.Sc. (Honours Biology), Carleton University, Ottawa ON, 1989
M.Sc. (Zoology), University of Toronto, Toronto ON, 1992
Ph.D. (Biological Sciences), Simon Fraser University, Burnaby BC, 1998
          – Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Alberta, Edmonton AB, 1998-2000


BIOL 192 – General Biology II: Diversity of Life (zoology section)
ZOOL 305/505 – Entomology
BIOL 426/526 – Insect Ecology


I am broadly interested in insect-plant interactions as well as ecological and conservation-related research on slickspot peppergrass, Lepidium papilliferum, a rare and threatened mustard endemic to Idaho.  Research in my lab currently focuses on (1) the population and foraging ecology of Owyhee harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex salinus), (2) interactions between insects and slickspot peppergrass [and other native forbs], and (3) the use of seed introductions to augment L. papilliferum populations.  General areas of study include seed predation, insect-mediated pollination, habitat associations and population processes, and territoriality in harvester ants.  I also have collaborative projects with Drs. Sven Buerki and Stephanie Galla (L. papilliferum genomics/population genetics) and Dr. Leonora Bittleston (DNA barcoding to detect L. papilliferum seeds in the soil seed bank).

Ant with leaf and bee on flower


  • Emily Sun.  MS Biology.  (In progress).  Emily is studying the influence of tall tumblemustard on visitations by bees to native forbs in sagebrush-steppe habitat, and whether Vexar (an anti-herbivore mesh used to protect forbs) deters insect visitations to flowers. (co-supervised by Dr. David Pilliod, USGS)
  • Michaela Grossklaus.  MS Biology 2023.  “Seed predation by harvester ants on native grasses and forbs: implications for management in a changing landscape.”
  • Jennifer Brown. MS Biology 2019.  “Seed predation by Owyhee harvester ants and the potential of seed introductions in recovery efforts for slickspot peppergrass.”
  • Michelle Jeffries. MS Biology 2016.  “An investigation of seed predation and herbivory on slickspot peppergrass.”
  • Matt Schmasow. MS Biology 2015.  “Diet selection by the Owyhee harvester ant (Pogonomyrmex salinus) in southwestern Idaho.”
  • Joshua White. MS Biology 2009. “Seed predation on slickspot peppergrass by the Owyhee harvester ant.” Josh was the recipient of Boise State’s “Distinguished Masters Thesis” Award in 2009.
  • Kristine Barney. MA Biology 2009. “Using Frequent Low-Stakes Testing as a Learning Tool in an Introductory Biology Course”.
  • Wyatt Williams. MS Biology 2007. “Host selection in the Douglas-fir beetle following extended periods of flight: the effect of depleted fat reserves on pioneer behavior.”
  • Stephanie Billinge. MS Biology 2006. “Reproductive performance as a function of outcrossing distance in Lepidium papilliferum (Brassicaceae), a rare plant endemic to southwest Idaho.”
  • Amy Stillman. MS Biology 2006. “Population genetics and mating system of the rare polyploid, Lepidium papilliferum (Brassicaceae), a southwestern Idaho endemic.” (co-supervised by Dr. Steve Novak)
  • Hollie Leavitt. MS Biology 2006. “Pollination and florivory by insects visiting Lepidium papilliferum (Brassicaceae) flowers”


I have several ongoing projects that focus on the conservation of slickspot peppergrass, which includes the role of insects as seed predators and pollinators of this rare mustard.  Contact me for updates on research opportunities and the availability of teaching assistantships.


  • Brown JA & IC Robertson. 2020. Harvester ants reduce seed survivorship in slickspot peppergrass, a rare mustard endemic to Idaho.  Western North American Naturalist, 80: 483-491.
  • Robertson IC & WG Robertson. 2020.  Colony dynamics and plant community associations of the harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex salinus (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in sagebrush-steppe habitat.  Environmental Entomology, 49: 983-992.
  • Robertson IC & MS Schmasow. 2018. Modification of diet and foraging range by harvester ants in response to altered seed availability.  Journal of Insect Behavior, 31: 361-372.  DOI10.1007/s10905-018-9658-x
  • Robertson IC, WH Clark, CW Baun & KS Warner. 2017. Field evaluation of Amdro® granular baits in targeted control of Owyhee harvester ant colonies (Pogonomyrmex salinus, Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Journal of the Idaho Academy of Science and Engineering, 53(2):1-8.
  • Schmasow MS & IC Robertson. 2016. Selective foraging by Pogonomyrmex salinus (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in semiarid grassland: implications for a rare plant.  Environmental Entomology, 45(4): 952-960.  DOI10.1093/ee/nvw071
  • Howell BD & IC Robertson. 2015. Reclaiming lost territory: the response of Owyhee harvester ants to forager intrusions by neighboring colonies.  Journal of Insect Behavior, 28(6): 722-731.  DOI10.1007/s10905-015-9538-9
  • Wilson ER, Smalling KL, Reilly TJ, Gray E, Bond L, Steele L, Kandel P, Chamberlin A, Gause J, Reynolds N, Robertson I, Novak S, Feris K, & MM White.  2014.  Assessing the potential effects of fungicides on nontarget gut fungi (Trichomycetes) and their associated larval blackfly hosts.  Journal of the American Water Resources Association, 50(2): 420-433.
  • Robertson IC & H Leavitt. 2011. Relative contributions to seed production by floral visitors of slickspot peppergrass, Lepidium papilliferum (Brassicaceae).  Arthropod-Plant Interactions, 5: 379-389.  DOI1007/s11829-011-09142-7
  • White JP & IC Robertson. 2009. Intense seed predation by harvester ants on a rare mustard. Écoscience, 16(4): 508-513.
  • Smith JF, Stillman AJ, Larson SR, Culumber CM, Robertson IC, & SJ Novak. 2009. Phylogenetic Relationships among Lepidium papilliferum (L. Henderson) A. Nels. & J. F. Macbr., L. montanum Nutt., and L. davisii Rollins (Brassicaceae). Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society, 136(2): 149-163.
  • White JP & IC Robertson. 2009. An unusual life history strategy in Lepidium papilliferum (Brassicaceae), a rare mustard endemic to southwestern Idaho. Northwest Science, 83: 287-290.
  • Billinge S & IC Robertson. 2008. Spatial structure and inbreeding depression in slickspot peppergrass, Lepidium papilliferum (Brassicaceae). Botany, 86: 1002-1008.
  • Williams WI & IC Robertson. 2008. Using automated flight mills to manipulate fat reserves in Douglas-fir beetles, Dendroctonus pseudotsugae (Hopkins) (Coleoptera: Curculionidae). Environmental Entomology, 37: 850-856.
  • Leavitt H & IC Robertson. 2006. Petal herbivory by chrysomelid beetles (Phyllotreta sp.) is detrimental to pollination and seed production in Lepidium papilliferum (Brassicaceae). Ecological Entomology, 31: 657-660.
  • Robertson IC & D Klemash-Maguire. 2005. Crab spiders deter insect visitations to slickspot peppergrass flowers. Oikos, 109: 577-582.
  • Robertson IC & AC Ulappa. 2004. Distance between pollen donor and recipient influences fruiting success in slickspot peppergrass, Lepidium papilliferum. Canadian Journal of Botany, 82: 1705-1710.
  • Robertson IC. 2004. Importance of outcrossing for fruit production in slickspot peppergrass, Lepidium papilliferum L. (Brassicaceae). Western North American Naturalist, 64: 265-268.
  • Robertson IC & D Klemash. 2003. Insect-mediated pollination in slickspot peppergrass, Lepidium papilliferum L. (Brassicaceae), and its implications for population viability. Western North American Naturalist, 63: 333-342.
  • Robertson IC. 2000. Reproduction and developmental phenology of Ips perturbatus (Coleoptera: Scolytidae) inhabiting white spruce. Canadian Entomologist, 132: 529-537.
  • Roitberg BD, Robertson IC & JGA Tyreman. 1999. Vive la variance: a functional oviposition theory for insect herbivores. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata, 91: 187-194.
  • Robertson IC & BD Roitberg. 1998. Duration of paternal care in pine engraver beetles: why do larger males care less? Behavioral Ecology & Sociobiology, 43: 379-386.
  • Robertson IC. 1998. Paternal care enhances male reproductive success in pine engraver beetles. Animal Behaviour, 56: 595-602.
  • Robertson IC. 1998. Flight muscle changes in male pine engraver beetles during reproduction: the effects of body size, mating status and breeding failure. Physiological Entomology, 23: 75-80.
  • Robertson IC, Robertson WG & BD Roitberg. 1998. A model of mutual tolerance and the origin of communal associations between unrelated females. Journal of Insect Behavior, 11: 265-286.
  • Robertson IC, Roitberg BD, Williamson I & SE Senger. 1995. Contextual chemical ecology: an evolutionary approach to the chemical ecology of insects. American Entomologist, 41: 237-239.
  • Bouskila A, Robertson IC, Robinson ME, Roitberg BD, Tenhumberg B, Tyre AJ & E vanRanden. 1995. Submaximal oviposition rates in a mymarid parasitoid: choosiness should not be ignored. Ecology, 76: 1990-1993.
  • Robertson IC. 1995. Extra-pair copulations in burying beetles (Coleoptera: Silphidae). Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society, 67: 418-420.
  • Robertson IC. 1993. Nest intrusions, infanticide, and parental care in the burying beetle, Nicrophorus orbicollis (Coleoptera: Silphidae). Journal of Zoology, London, 231: 583-593.
  • Robertson IC. 1992. Relative abundance of Nicrophorus pustulatus (Coleoptera: Silphidae) in a burying beetle community, with notes on its reproductive behavior. Psyche, 99: 189-198.
  • Robertson IC & PJ Weatherhead. 1992. The role of temperature in microhabitat selection by northern water snakes (Nerodia sipedon). Canadian Journal of Zoology 70: 417-422.
  • Weatherhead PJ & IC Robertson. 1992. Thermal constraints on swimming performance and escape response of northern water snakes (Nerodia sipedon). Canadian Journal of Zoology 70: 94-98.
  • Weatherhead PJ & IC Robertson. 1990. Homing to food by black rat snakes (Elaphe obsoleta). Copeia 1990: 1164-1165