Lisa Chamberland: About Those Ogre-Faced Spiders....

If you're curious about ogre-faced spiders, then you'll want to hear what UC Davis postdoctoral scholar and arachnologist Lisa Chamberland has to say about her research at the next seminar hosted by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.

Chamberland's in-person and virtual seminar, titled "The Biogeography and Eye Size Evolution of the Ogre-Faced Spiders," will take place from 4:10 to 5 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 25 in 122 Briggs Hall. A coffee social in 158 Briggs will precede the seminar from 3:30 to 4:10 p.m.

The Zoom link:

Chamberland studies the evolution and biogeography of spiders as an arachnologist in the laboratory of Jason Bond, associate dean, UC Davis College of Agricultural and Natural Resources, and professor and the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. 

“Net-casting spiders (Deinopidae) comprise three genera with enigmatic evolutionary histories. Deinopis and Asianopis, the ogre-faced spiders, are best known for their giant light-capturing posterior median eyes (PME), whereas Menneus does not have enlarged PMEs,” Chamberland says in her abstract. “Molecular phylogenetic studies have revealed discordance between morphology and molecular data. We employed a character-rich, ultra-conserved element (UCE) dataset and a taxon-rich cytochrome oxidase I (COI) dataset to reconstruct a genus-level phylogeny of Deinopidae, aiming to investigate the group's historical biogeography, and examine PME size evolution. Although the phylogenetic results support the monophyly of Menneus and the single reduction of PME size in deinopids, these data also show that Deinopis is not monophyletic. Deinopid biogeographic history reflects the separation of Western Gondwana as well as long-distance dispersal events.” 

Chamberland joined the Bond lab in 2021. She holds a doctorate in biology (2020) from the University of Vermont, Burlington, where she studied with Ingi Agnarsson. Her dissertation title: "From Gondwana to GAARlandia: Molecular Phylogenetics and Historical Biogeography of Spiders." She received her bachelor's degree in biology and anthropology in 2013 from the University of Vermont. 

Love at First Sight. “As an undergraduate at the University of Vermont, I was introduced to deinopids, the ogre-faced spiders, and it was love at first sight,” Chamberland related. “With a wide range of dispersal propensities and diverse hunting strategies, spiders have been a rich source for me to explore biogeographic and evolutionary questions. I would like to continue my work with historical biogeography and spiders after my postdoc and help foster the upcoming generation of arachnologists. I enjoy teaching, especially through the lens of phylogenetics and systematics, and I am working towards finding a teaching career where I can teach, mentor, and continue to ask evolutionary questions.” 

Chamberland and Bond co-hosted the 2022 American Arachnological Society Summer Symposium at UC Davis and she also delivered a research presentation at the symposium. At both UC Davis and at the University of Vermont, she has led and taught lab and field techniques, molecular methods and data analyses, and arachnology to high school, undergraduate, and graduate students resulting in publications on systematics, evolution, and biogeography of spiders.

She earlier served as the invertebrate collections manager at the Zadock Thompson Zoological Collections (2020-2021), University of Vermont. 

Chamberland is the lead author of “Biogeography and Eye Evolution of the Ogre-faced Spiders," published Oct. 22, 2022 in Scientific Reports and co-authored by Ingi Agnarsson, Iris Quayle, Tess Ruddy, James Starrett and Jason Bond. 

The department seminars, coordinated by urban landscape entomologist Emily Meineke, assistant professor, are held on Wednesdays through March 15. (See schedule.) Eight of the 10 will be in-person in 122 Briggs Hall, and all will be virtual.

For further information on the seminars or technical difficulties with Zoom, contact Meineke at