MacArthur Fellows Program

Naomi Pierce

Biologist | Class of 1988

Princeton, New Jersey
34 at time of award
Published August 1, 1988

About Naomi's Work

Naomi Pierce is a biologist working in the area of plant-herbivore coevolution.

In her studies of the relationships among species such as blue butterflies, ants, and their host plants, Pierce has provided new models for the study of the evolution of symbiotic relationships and rapid speciation.  Her application of morphological, histological, biochemical, and ethological techniques has enabled her to analyze the behavioral mechanisms underlying these relationships.  Pierce is involved in research that analyzes genetic mechanisms and biochemical signaling pathways underlying interaction between plants, pathogens, and insects.  Her laboratory works to reconstruct the evolutionary history of butterflies in the Lycaenidae family in relation to their complex association with ants, by examining molecular and morphological data that may be key to their patterns of diversification. 


Her research on lycaenid/ant interaction has taken Pierce to locations around the world including Japan, Australia, South Africa, and Borneo.  She was a research lecturer and NATO Research Fellow in the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford (1984-1986) and a professor of biology at Princeton University (1986-1990).  Since 1991, she has been the Hessel Professor of Biology at Harvard University and Curator of Lepidoptera at its Museum of Comparative Zoology.

Pierce received a B.S. (1976) from Yale University and a Ph.D. (1983) from Harvard University.

Last updated January 1, 2005.

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