David Hembry is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Entomology at Cornell University. His research focuses on the evolution of interactions—particularly mutualism and parasitism—among organisms, and the effects these interactions have on evolution and diversification. As a graduate student and later postdoc at the University of California, Berkeley and Kyoto University from 2006-2014, David conducted research at Gump Station on the endemic radiation of mahame or mānono (leafflower trees; Phyllanthaceae: Phyllanthus s. l. [Glochidion]) and their interactions with pollinating leafflower moths (Lepidoptera: Epicephala spp.) in French Polynesia and the Cook Islands. Like fig wasps and yucca moths, leafflower moths actively pollinate the flowers of their host plants, but their larvae consume a subset of the host’s seeds. David's work used molecular phylogenetic and species interaction network approaches to reconstruct how mahame and their pollinating moths colonized and diversified across Southeastern Polynesia, including the Society Islands, and assembled into networks of interacting endemic taxa on different islands, including Mo'orea.
David has conducted fieldwork elsewhere in the Society Islands, as well as the Marquesas, Tuamotu, Gambier, Austral, and Cook archipelagos during the period 2006-2009, in collaboration with, among others, colleagues from the NSF-funded Biotic Surveys and Inventories project on French Polynesian arthropods (PI: Rosemary Gillespie, UC Berkeley), Jean-Yves Meyer and others from the Délégation à la Recherche (Government of French Polynesia), the Association Te Rau ’Ati ’Ati, and Australian National University. He synthesized phylogeographic studies of Society Islands endemic taxa in a review paper with Brad Balukjian (Laney College) and took part in a collaboration led by Erica Newman (University of Arizona) to study the effects of the 2008 Fairurani wildfire on cloud forest vegetation. David also served as an instructor for the 2009 UC Berkeley Mo’orea field course, gave an outreach talk about his research in 2008 to the Association Te Pū ’Atiti’a, adopted a cat (Mo’o) from Gump Station, thinks the taro is better in the Australs, and misses fe’i.