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Leonora Bittleston, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences

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

Office Location: Science Building, Room 133
Email Address:
Lab Website:

Academic Degrees

  • B.S., University of California – Berkeley, 2007
  • Ph.D., Harvard University, 2016
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2016-2019

Research Interests

The Bittleston Lab investigates the ecology and evolution of multispecies interactions. We aim to understand how microbial communities form, and how their dynamics affect their hosts as well as ecosystem structure and function. To study this, we use genomics tools to connect genes with ecology. Our study system is primarily the small, aquatic ecosystems that form inside the leaves of carnivorous pitcher plants, but will soon be extending to sagebrush-associated microbial communities.


Bittleston, L.S., Freedman, Z.B., Bernardin, J.R., Grothjan, J.J., Young, E.B., Record, S., Baiser, B., Gray, S.M. 2021. Exploring microbiome functional dynamics through space and time with trait-based theory. mSystems 6:e00530-21.

Goyal, A., Bittleston, L.S., Leventhal, G.E., Lu, L., Cordero, O.X. 2021. Interactions between strains govern the eco-evolutionary dynamics of microbial communities. PREPRINT bioRxiv 2021.01.04.425224; doi:

Bittleston, L.S., Gralka, M., Leventhal, G.E., Mizrahi, I., Cordero, O.X. 2020. Context-dependent dynamics lead to the assembly of functionally distinct microbial communities. Nature Communications 11, 1440.

Gilbert, K.J., Bittleston, L.S., Naive, M.A.K., Kiszewski, A.E., Buenavente, P.A.C., Lohman, D.J., Pierce, N.E. 2020. Investigation of an elevational gradient reveals strong differences between bacterial and eukaryotic communities coinhabiting Nepenthes phytotelmata. Microbial Ecology

Shoemaker, L.G., Barner, A.K., Bittleston, L.S. and Teufel, A.I. 2020. Quantifying the relative importance of variation in predation and the environment for species coexistence. Ecology Letters doi:10.1111/ele.13482

Gilbert, K.J., Bittleston, L.S., Tong, W., Pierce, N.E. 2020. Tropical pitcher plants (Nepenthes) act as ecological filters by altering properties of their fluid microenvironments. Science Reports 10, 4431

Bittleston, L.S., Wolock, C.J., Yahya, B.E., Chan, X.Y., Chan, K.C., Pierce, N.E., and Pringle, A. 2018. Convergence between the microcosms of Southeast Asian and North American pitcher plantseLife 2018;7:e36741 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.36741

Bittleston, L.S. Commensals of Nepenthes pitchers. 2018. In Ellison, A.M., and Adamec, L. (Eds.), Carnivorous plants: physiology, ecology and evolution. Oxford, England: Oxford University PressOxford, UKOrder here.

Baker, C.C.M., Bittleston, L.S., Sanders, J.G., and Pierce, N.E. 2016. Dissecting host-associated communities with DNA barcodesPhilosophical Transactions B DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2015.0328.

Bittleston, L.S., Pierce, N.E., Ellison, A.M., and Pringle, A. 2016. Convergence in multispecies interactionsTREE 31: 269-280

Bittleston L.S., Baker, C.C.M., Strominger, L.B., Pringle, A. and Pierce, N. E. 2016. Metabarcoding as a tool for investigating arthropod diversity in Nepenthes pitcher plantsAustral Ecology 41: 120-132

Coletta-Filho, H.D., Bittleston, L.S., Lopes, J.R.S., Daugherty, M.P., and Almeida, R.P.P. 2015. Genetic distance may underlie virulence differences among isolates of a bacterial plant pathogen. Journal of Plant Pathology 97: 465-469

Bittleston L.S., Brockmann, F., Wcislo, W. and Van Bael, S.A. 2011. Endophytic fungi reduce leaf-cutting ant damage to seedlings. Biology Letters 7: 30–32

Degnan, P.H.*, Bittleston, L.S.*, Hansen, A.K., Sabree, Z.L., Moran, N.A. and Almeida, R.P.P. 2011. Origin and examination of a leafhopper facultative endosymbiont. Current Microbiology 62: 1565-1572
*Contributed equally to this work.

Coletta-Filho, H.D., Bittleston, L.S. and Almeida, R.P.P. 2011. Spatial genetic structure of a vector-borne generalist pathogen. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 77: 2596-2601

Prospective Graduate and Undergraduate Students

Undergraduate and graduate students interested in working in the lab should email me with your C.V. or resume, and a description of what you want to study and why.