Amy Mertl
Boston University Department of Biology


Boston University, Boston MA, 2009

Ph.D. in Ecology, Evolution and Behavior.  Dissertation Title: Species Richness, Community Structure and Social Organization in Amazonian Pheidole

University of Minnesota, Minneapolis MN, 2000

B.S. in Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, second major in Genetics and Cell Biology, minors in Spanish and Theater.


Doctoral Research: Boston University, Boston MA, Fall 2001 – Spring 2009. Research advisor: Dr. James Traniello

Extensive experience studying the systematics, behavior and community ecology of ants, in particular the hyperdiverse genus Pheidole in Amazonian Ecuador.  Over 12 months of field research at Tiputini Biodiversity Station, intensive training in ant taxonomy, behavioral ecology, morphometrics, and molecular phylogenetics

Research Assistant/Volunteer: Marine Park Service, Santo Domingo and Loreto, Mexico, January – April 2001

Completed population surveys of breeding fin whales, planned and conducted environmental education projects in Spanish for adults and children

Undergraduate Senior Thesis: Council of International Educational Exchange, Monteverde, Costa Rica, January – June 2000

Completed independent research on daily foraging cycles of leafcutter ants in lower-montane rainforest in Costa Rica

Research Assistant: University of Minnesota, Minneapolis MN, May – August 1999

Studied the effects of natural predators on the pest population of European Corn Borers in fields of Bt and non-Bt corn.  Collected data on egg predation, collected and reared lady beetle populations, maintained field sites, conducted independent research on ant / aphid / lady beetle interactions

Research Assistant: University of Minnesota, Minneapolis MN, January – May 1998

Studied the effects of simulated global warming on genetically identical plants. Prepared field sites in Kansas, Oklahoma and Minnesota, planted seeds and reared seedlings, collected data on growth


Teaching Fellow, Boston University, Boston MA, Spring 2002 – Fall 2008

Taught lab and discussion sections for Introductory Biology, Animal Behavior and Sociobiology courses.  Developed course websites for Sociobiology and Animal Behavior.  Restructured the Animal Behavior lab course, developed new labs and wrote a lab manual

BIOBUGS outreach program: Boston University, Boston MA, April 2005 – December 2008

Worked with other graduate students and teachers to design and run BIOBUGS, an outreach program bringing underserved high school students to Boston University to experience college level labs in forensic science, phylogenetics, behavior, and comparative zoology

Documentary Instructor, Cambridge Community Television, Cambridge, MA, January 2007 - present

Taught 3-week and 6-week courses on basic documentary production (pre-production planning, use of camera, lights and audio equipment, digital editing and distribution) to community members of all ages and backgrounds, including specialized classes for teens and seniors. Received the 2009-2010 “CCTV Instructor of the Year” award

Undergraduate Teaching Assistant, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis MN, Fall 1997 – Fall 1999  

Taught recitation and lab sections for an introductory biology course for transfer students from community colleges and professional schools. Planned labs, graded papers, wrote lab tests and homework assignments

June - August 2000: Volunteer at the Monteverde Butterfly Garden, taught tour groups about tropical insects, designed and created a Leafcutter ant exhibit

June 1999 - Dec. 2000: Museum Interpreter, Minnesota Children’s Museum: Duties included leading activities and games, storytelling, working with mothers and kids through the Sprouts! Program, and mentoring middle school and high school volunteers with the Science Squad program

Oct. – Dec. 1999: Teacher with Mad Science of Minnesota, taught after-school science classes to  a group of 15 first and second graders


Senior Scientific Editor: Journal of Visual Experiments, Somerville MA, May 2009 – present

Reviewing methodological papers and editing submissions relating to behavior, cell and molecular biology, neuroscience and developmental biology. Consulting with authors and reviewers, managing publication progress

Media Production: Cambridge Community Television Station, MA, September 2004 – present

Producing science and community related media.  Leader of Project Documentary, a production team creating science-oriented documentaries, such as “Ants,” (, “Nuclear on the Block,” ( and “The Earth Moves” (

Development of web resources, Boston University, Boston MA, August 2006

Published “Key to the Pheidole of Tiputini Biodiversity Station (Orellana, Ecuador) based on the Major Caste” as an interactive online tool, including reference photos, diagrams and automontage identification quality images of all the included species.  This key has since been used by researchers in the US, Ecuador, Panama and Peru (

Scientists Concerned for Yasuni, with Tiputini Biodiversity Station and Finding Species, October 2004 – March 2007

Worked jointly with other scientists to support conservation efforts in Parque Nacional Yasuní in Ecuador. Summarized relevant research in reports and letters to government and business officials, as well as encouraging the involvement of other scientists


August 2002: attended the Ant Course, a one-week workshop on ant taxonomy.


Age, size, brain and subcaste evolution in the ant genus Pheidole. (invited speaker) Amy L. Mertl, Mario M. Muscedere and James F.A. Traniello. Presented at the Honoring Hölldobler and Wilson by Celebrating the Social Insects symposium at the Entomological Society of America meeting in Indianapolis, IN, Dec. 13 – 16, 2009

Natural disturbance and litter-nesting ant communities: Richness, abundance and species composition along an Amazonian flooding gradient. (invited speaker). Amy L Mertl, Kari T Ryder Wilkie and James FA Traniello.  Presented at the Harvard Entomological Club meeting in Cambridge, MA, November 13, 2007

Subcaste Morphology and Behavioral Plasticity in a Community of Tropical Pheidole. (Invited speaker). Amy L. Mertl and James F.A. Traniello. Presented at Caste Interactions and Social Reproduction symposium at the International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) 2006 Congress in Washington DC, July 30 – August 5, 2006.

Tropical subterranean biodiversity; A new method for studying an under-sampled ant fauna. (Poster) Kari T. Ryder Wilkie, Amy L. Mertl, and James FA Traniello.  Presented at the International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) 2006 Congress in Washington DC, July 30 – August 5, 2006.

Community structure in naturally disturbed habitats. (invited speaker). Amy L Mertl. Presented at Yasuni Day in Mindo, Ecuador, October 11 – 13, 2004

Species composition of ground-dwelling ant communities in primary and secondary rainforests of Amazonian Ecuador. (Student speaker) Amy L. Mertl, Kari T. Ryder Wilkie, Amanda Breneman, Stefan Cover, and James FA Traniello.  Presented at the Entomological Society of America, 2002 Annual Meeting at Fort Lauderdale, Florida, November 17-20, 2002. 


Why studying ants is so much cooler than whatever it is you do. 2005. Nerd Nite, Midway café, Jamiaca Plains, MA.

Species richness in a naturally disturbed habitat: Twig and Litter-nesting ants along an Amazonian flooding gradient.  (Poster) Boston University Science and Engineering Research Symposium, 2006.


Mertl AL, Sorenson MD, Traniello JFA. 2010. Community-level interactions and functional ecology of major workers in the hyperdiverse ground-foraging Pheidole (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) community of Amazonian Ecuador. Insectes Sociaux DOI:10.1007/s00040-010-0102-5

Mertl AL, Ryder Wilkie KT, Traniello JFA. 2009. Impact of flooding on the species richness, density and composition of Amazonian litter-nesting ants. Biotropica 41(5): 633-641

Mertl AL, Traniello JFA. 2009. Behavioral evolution in the major worker subcaste of twig-nesting Pheidole (Hymenoptera: Formicidae): Does morphological specialization influence task plasticity? Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 63(10): 1411-1426

Ryder Wilkie KT, Mertl AL, Traniello JFA. 2009. Diversity of ground-dwelling ants in primary and secondary forests in Amazonian Ecuador. Myrmecological News 12: 139-147

Ryder Wilkie KT, Mertl AL and Traniello JFA. 2007. Biodiversity below ground: probing the subterranean ant fauna of Amazonia. Naturwissenschaften. 94(9): 725-731

Mertl AL and Azorsa Salazar F. (in prep). Geographically variation in the sociometrics of Amazonian litter-nesting ants.

Mertl AL, Sorenson MD, Traniello JFA (in prep) Size, range, and abundance: Correlates of rarity in a Neotropical ant community.

Ryder Wilkie KT, Mertl AL, Traniello JFA. (in press) Diversity and distribution patterns of the ants of Amazonian Ecuador. PLoS ONE

Ryder Wilkie KT, Mertl AL, Traniello JFT (in prep) Ecological associations of two species-rich insect taxa in an Amazonian rainforest: is there a relationship between ant and termite diversity?


Subterranean Ant Diversity at Tiputini. 2007. Center for Ecology and Conservation Biology, Fall Update.

Understanding Amazonian Ant Diversity. 2003. Center for Ecology and Conservation Biology, Fall Update.


1999 Presidents Student Leadership and Service award from the University of Minnesota
1999 Dean E.M. Freeman leadership award
1999 Natalie S. Gallagher Award for contributions to student life
2001 Claire Booth Luce Fellowship
2002 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship
2003 Boston University Tony Swain award for best qualifying exam
2005 Sigma Xi Research Award
2005 Boston University Graduate Research Abroad Fellowship