Linda S. Fink

(434) 381-6436
[email protected]

Ph.D. 1989 University of Florida (Zoology)
M.S. 1984 University of Florida (Zoology)
B.A. 1980 Amherst College (Biology)

Courses I teach
Introduction to Organisms, Introductory Laboratory Techniques, Animal Behavior, Field Natural History, Insect Biology, Ecology, Seminar in Conservation Biology

I have three interrelated research interests.

  • I study arthropod behavior and ecology, and have published work on caterpillars, butterflies and spiders. Currently I am working with Lincoln Brower to understand why monarch butterflies are so selective about their wintering sites in Mexico. I am also investigating sexual selection and sperm competition in the northern walkingstick insect, Diapheromera femorata.

  • I am fascinated by, and concerned by, the effects of invasive organisms on the ecological communities they invade.  Two plants that my students and I have examined on Sweet Briar's campus are Japanese stiltgrass, Microstegium vimineum, and periwinkle, Vinca minor. My interest in invasive species has broadened to encompass student research on exotic plant pathogens, parasitoids, earthworms and crayfish.

  • As a field biologist on a 3200-acre campus, I conduct research on the ecology of our hardwood forests, open fields and freshwater habitats. 


Selected publications

  • Brower, L. P., and L. S. Fink. 2015. Conserving North American Monarch Butterflies. in K. O. a. K. N. Oberhauser, editor. Monarchs in a Changing World: Biology and Conservation of an Iconic Butterfly. Oxford University Press.
  • Brower, L. P., L. S. Fink, R. Kiphart, V. M. Pocius, R. R. Zubieta-Hern├índez, and M. I. Ramirez. 2015. The effect of the 2010-2011 drought on the lipid content of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus L., Danainae) migrating thorough Texas to their overwintering sites in Mexico. in K. Oberhauser, editor. 
  • Brower, L.P., E.H. Williams, L.S. Fink, D.A. Slayback, M.I. Ramirez, M.I. Limon Garcia, R.R. Zubieta, S.B. Weiss, W.H. Calvert, W. Zuchowski. 2011. Overwintering clusters of the monarch butterfly coincide with the least hazardous vertical temperatures in the oyamel forest. Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 65: 27-46.
  • Brower, L.P., E.H. Williams, D.A. Slayback, L.S. Fink, M.I. Ramirez, R.R. Zubieta, M.I. Limon Garcia, P. Gier, J.A. Lear* and T. van Hook. 2009. Oyamel fir tree trunks provide thermal advantages for overwintering monarch butterflies in Mexico. Insect Biodiversity and Conservation 2: 163-175.
  • Slayback, D.A., Brower, L.P., Ramirez, M.I. and Fink, L.S. 2007. Establishing the presence and absence of overwintering colonies of the monarch butterfly in Mexico by the use of small aircraft. American Entomologist 53 (1): 28-40.  download pdf
  • Brower, L. P., Fink, L.S. and P. Walford. 2006. Fueling the fall migration of the monarch butterfly. Integrative and Comparative Biology 46: 1123-1142.
  • Kellogg, S.K.*, Fink, L.S., & Brower, L.P. 2003. Parasitism of native luna moths, Actias luna (L.) (Lepidoptera: Saturniidae) by the introduced Compsilura concinnata (Meigen) (Diptera:  Tachinidae) in central Virginia, and their hyperparasitism by trigonalid wasps (Hymenoptera: Trigonalidae). Environmental Entomology 32: 1019-1027.  download pdf
  • Fink, L.S. 1995. Foodplant effects on colour morphs of Eumorpha fasciata caterpillars (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 56(3): 423-437.
  • Fink, L.S. 1986. Costs and benefits of maternal behaviour in the green lynx spider (Oxyopidae, Peucetia viridans). Animal Behaviour 34: 1051-1059.
  • Fink, L.S. and Brower, L.P. 1981. Birds can overcome the cardenolide defense of monarch butterflies in Mexico. Nature 291: 67-70.

Recent student research projects

I supervise research on the ecology, natural history, and behavior of organisms in the wild; and on animal learning in the lab. Many students work on insects, but I also supervise research on salamanders, crayfish, plants, reptiles and fish.  As long as I feel that I have enough expertise to supervise a project, I enjoy learning along with my students. 

Insect biology

  • Mckinnon, T., The structure and sensory function of sensilla in the anal claspers of male walkingsticks
  • Melgarejo, C., The cost of defense in the brown marmorated stink bug
  • Bates, E., Does the freeze resistance of stinkbugs, Halyomorpha halys, change from winter to spring?
  • Nealon, C., Development of an assay for trehalose in Monarch (Danaus plexippus) hemolymph
  • Davis, R., Are melanism and elevation correlated with the ability of the Asian ladybird beetle, Harmonia axyridis, to resist freezing?
  • McVeigh, D., Investigating the reproductive anatomy and physiology of the female walkingstick, Diapheromera femorata
  • Horne, M., Insecticide detection in the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus)

Effects of invasive exotic species on natural communities

  • Montalvo, H., The incidence of Borrelia burgdorferi in ixodid ticks in Sweet Briar, VA
  • Rothamel, S., Short term survivorship study of spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) egg masses in Guion Pond
  • Summerfield, J. Effects of crayfish chemical cues on hatching of spotted salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum)
  • Ogilvie, M., The effect of Vinca minor on microhabitat selection by Peromyscus mice
  • Kellogg, S., Effects of an exotic tachinid fly parasitoid on luna moth caterpillar survival
  • Tannahill, C., The effects of Japanese stilt grass, Microstegium vimineum, on earthworm abundance and diversity

Other projects

  • Hayden, K., Diet and parasites of the eastern coyote in central Virginia
  • Basinger, S., The effect of light availability on the abundance of algal cells in spotted salamander eggs
  • Wieditz, K., Dots and stripes: pattern learning in the angelfish, Pterophyllum scalare
  • Bryan, K., Chameleon learning: can chameleons learn to discriminate between edible and inedible food using color cues?