Button to scroll to the top of the page.
Plowes, Rob

Robert Plowes

Research Scientist
Department of Integrative Biology

Host-parasite-microbe interactions, invasive species

Phone: 512-471-2825

Office Location


Research Interests: 

Host-parasite-microbe interactions, landscape ecology, impacts of climate change and land management, invasive species ecology.

 (a) Professional Preparation

University of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia

Electrical systems engineering

BSc (Eng) Honors, 1982

University of Texas, Austin

Landscape Ecology

PhD, 2005

University of Texas, Austin

Invasive species ecology

Postdoc, 2006-2007

PhD title: Tropical forest landscape dynamics: population consequences for neotropical lianas, genus Passiflora.

PhD advisor:  Dr Lawrence E. Gilbert

(b) Appointments

2014 to present  Research Scientist, Research & Education Coordinator, BFL, Univ Texas, Austin.

2007 to 2014  Research Associate, Research & Education Coordinator, BFL, Univ Texas, Austin.

2000 to 2005 Teaching Assistant, University of Texas at Austin.

1996 to 2000 Manager & Project Director, GE Industrial Controls, Houston,Tx.

1988 to 1996 Partner, Stewart Scott Intl, Consulting Engineers, Botswana.

1982 to 1988 Divisional Engineer (Research & Dev), Anglo American Corporation.




  1. Plowes, R. M., Becnel, J. J., LeBrun, E. G., Oi, D. H., Valles, S. M., Jones, N. T., et al. (2015). Myrmecomorba nylanderiae gen. et sp. nov., a microsporidian parasite of the tawny crazy ant Nylanderia fulva. Journal of Invertebrate Pathology, 129, 45-56.
  2. Plowes, R. M., Folgarait, P. J. & Gilbert, L. E. (2015) Pseudacteon notocaudatus and Pseudacteon obtusitus (Diptera: Phoridae), two new species of fire ant parasitoids from South America. Zootaxa, 4032, 215-220.
  3. Valles, S.M., Oi, D.H., Plowes, R.M., Sánchez-Arroyo, H., Varone, L., Conant, P. (2013). Geographic Distribution Suggests that Solenopsis invicta is the Host of Predilection for Solenopsis invicta virus 1. Journal of Invertebrate Pathology 113: 232-236.
  4. McFrederick, Q.S., Cannone, J.J., Gutell, R.R., Kellner, K., Plowes, R.M., and Mueller, U.G. (2013). Host specificity between Hymenoptera and lactobacilli is the exception rather than the rule. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 79(6): 1803-1812.
  5. Plowes, R.M., Folgarait, P.F., Gilbert, L.E.  (2012).The introduction of the fire ant parasitoid Pseudacteon nocens in North America: challenges when establishing small populations. BioControl 57: 503-514.
  6. LeBrun, E.G., Plowes, R.M., Gilbert, L.E.  (2012). Imported fire ants near the edge of their range: disturbance and moisture determine prevalence and impact of an invasive social insect. Journal of Animal Ecology 81(4): 884-895.
  7. Plowes, R.M., LeBrun, E.G., Gilbert, L.E. (2011). Introduction of the fire ant decapitating fly Pseudacteon obtusus in the United States: factors influencing establishment in Texas. BioControl. BioControl 56:295–304.
  8. Ishak, H.D., Plowes, R.M., Kellner, K., Sen, R., Meyer, E., Estrada, D.A., Dowd, S., Mueller, U.G. (2010). Bacterial communities in Solenopsis invicta and Solenopsis geminata ant colonies characterized by 16S-amplicon 454 pyrosequencing. Microbial Ecology 61 (4) 821-831.
  9. Ascunce, M., Valles, S., Oi, D., Shoemaker, D., Plowes, R.M., Gilbert, L.E., LeBrun, E.G., Sánchez-Arroyo, H., Sanchez-Peña, S. (2010). Molecular diversity of the microsporidium Kneallhazia solenopsae reveals an expanded host range among fire ants in North America. Journal of Invertebrate Pathology, 105 (3) 279-288.
  10. Lv, J., Yang, Y., Wilson, L.T., Plowes, R.M., Gilbert, L.E. (2010). Simulating the impact of fire ant parasitoids and pathogens. Texas Rice 10(5): 3-6.
  11.   Plowes, R.M., E. G. LeBrun, Brown, B.V., Gilbert, L.E. (2009). A review of Pseudacteon (Diptera: Phoridae) that parasitize ants of the Solenopsis geminata complex (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. 102(6): 937-958.
  12. LeBrun, E.G., Plowes, R.M., Gilbert, L.E. (2009). Indirect competition facilitates widespread displacement of one naturalized parasitoid of imported fire ants by another. Ecology 90(5): 1184-1194.
  13. LeBrun, E.G., Plowes, R.M., Gilbert, L.E. (2008). Dynamic expansion in recently introduced populations of fire ant parasitoids (Diptera: Phoridae). Biological Invasions 10: 989-999.
  14. Gilbert, L.E., Barr, C.L.,  Calixto, A.A., Cook , J.L., Drees, B.M., LeBrun, E.G., Patrock, R.J.W., Plowes, R.M., Porter, S.D., Puckett, R. T. (2008). Introducing Phorid Fly Parasitoids of Red Imported Fire Ant Workers From South America to Texas:  Outcomes Vary by Region and by Pseudacteon Species Released. Southwestern Entomologist 33(1): 15-29.
  15. Plowes, R.M, Gilbert, L.E.  (2007). Advances and challenges in biocontrol efforts against fire ants in Texas. Biocontrol News and Information. 28:1-2.
  16. Plowes, R.M., Dunn, J.G., Gilbert, L.E. (2007). The urban fire ant paradox: native ants persist in an urban refuge while invasive ants dominate natural habitats. Biological Invasions 9:825-836.
  17. Plowes, R.M. (2002). Another record of Iolaus poultoni from eastern Zimbabwe. Metamorphosis 13(2): 68-70.
  18. Plowes, R.M. (2002) Tree damage by Cyclone Eline in Bunga Forest, Zimbabwe. Kirkia 18 (1) 63-71.
  19. Larsen, T.B., Plowes, R.M. (1992). Butterfly collecting in the Tswapong Hills, Botswana. Metamorphosis 3(1): 18-20.
  20. Larsen, T.B., Plowes, R.M.  (1991). The status of Myrina silenus (F.) in southern Africa and the proposal of a new subspecific name (Lepidoptera; Lycaenidae). Metamorphosis 2(4): 5-8.

Chapters in Books:

Gilbert, L. E., Christen, C. A., Altrichter, M., Longino, J. T., Sherman, P. M., Plowes, R., et al. (2016) The Southern Pacific Lowland Evergreen Moist Forest of the Osa Region. In: M. Kappelle (Ed), Costa Rican Ecosystems. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp. 360-411.

Articles in Conference Proceedings:

Plowes, R.M. (2004).  Rainforest landscape dynamics: Treefall gaps and passionvines. Int Assn Landscape Ecology Conference.

Plowes, R.M. & Gilbert, L.E. (2007) Progress with phorid fly releases for biocontrol of fire ants in Texas. Texas Parks & Wildlife Diversity Conference, Houston.

Plowes, R.M. & Gilbert, L.E. (2010). Potential for biological control of the tropical fire ant Solenopsis geminata and lessons learned from fire ant biocontrol in Texas. Biocontrol for Nature Symposium.

Plowes, R.M. & Gilbert, L.E. (2010). Evaluating phorid flies for biocontrol of Red Imported Fire Ants:  scientific networks helped frame an international approach. International Org Biological Control.

Plowes, R.M., LeBrun, E.G. & Gilbert, L.E. (2011) Introduction of the fire ant decapitating fly Pseudacteon obtusus in the United States: factors influencing establishment in Texas. 2011 Imported Fire Ant Conference.

LeBrun, E. G., Plowes, R.M., & Gilbert, L.E. (2012). Death by 1000 cuts:  Continuing to Assemble Communities of Phorid Fly Parasitoids for the Biological Control of Imported Fire Ants. 2012 Fire Ant Conference. 

Jones, N.J., Plowes, R.M., & Gilbert, L.E. (2012) Cellular physiology of the post-pharyngeal gland in Solenopsis invicta. IUSSI conference.

Jones, N. T., Plowes, R. M. & Gilbert, L. E. (2016) Parasitoids, caste, social form, and immune investment in the red imported fire ant Solenopsis invicta. In: 2016 XXV International Congress of Entomology, Orlando, FL

Technical Reports:

Plowes, N., Patrock, R., Hashmi, A., LeBrun, E., Plowes, R. (2006). A Field Key to the Ants (Hymenoptera, Formicidae) found at Brackenridge Field Laboratories, Travis County, Austin, Texas.

Plowes, R.M. (2006). Assessment of business development opportunities for brush management. 60pp.

Plowes, R. M. (2001). The distribution of Passiflora in a treefall gap. Report to ACOSA, Costa Rica. University of Texas, Austin TX.

Plowes, R. M. (1987). A recent therapsid fossil discovery in the Wankie district, Zimbabwe. Wankie Colliery Company Reports.



Outstanding Teaching Awards, 2003 & 2004

UT Dorothea Bennett Memorial Fellowship, 2003

UT Hamilton Fellowship, 2002 & 2003

UT Env Science Institute Fellowship, 2002

UT Summer Research Fellowship, 2001

Elected to Phi Kappa Phi, 2001

Anglo American Scholarship & Beit Scholarships (1977): undergraduate full costs