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Photo of Leticia Avilés LETICIA AVILÉS

Leticia Avilés is a native of Ecuador. She was born in Quito, the eldest of a family of five children. Leticia became interested in science early on and as a high school student was already fascinated with biology and curious about evolution. She attended the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador where she started to study social spiders for her undergraduate thesis project. Leticia suspected that these organisms, which appeared both easy to observe and relatively little studied, held the key to important questions in evolutionary biology and population ecology. To follow up on this work, Leticia attended graduate school at Harvard University where she worked with Herbert W. Levi and William H. Bossert (Ph.D. 1992). Leticia also spent time at the University of California at Berkeley (1988-90) and later at the University of Arizona where she was first a post-doctoral fellow and is currently an assistant professor.

Inspired by the intriguing biology of social spiders, Leticia's work brings together issues related to the evolution of sex ratios in subdivided populations, the levels of selection, the biology of metapopulations, population dynamics, and the evolution of social behavior. The exploration of these issues has led Leticia to develop computer simulation models, canoe in Amazonian rainforest in search of social spider colonies, or work in a laboratory employing cytological and molecular techniques. Ecuadorian and American graduate and undergraduate students are frequently involved in these studies. Additional information on Leticia's research and a list of her publications can be found at her website.

See Leticia Avilés's answers to Ask the Scientists questions.


Scientific American Frontiers
Fall 1990 to Spring 2000
Sponsored by GTE Corporation,
now a part of Verizon Communications Inc.