Skip to Main Content

Jessica Garb

Jessica Garb
Jessica E. GarbAssociate Professor

Research Interests

Evolutionary Biology & Genomics

Work in my laboratory is broadly aimed at understanding biological evolution, from the molecular level to species diversification. We specialize in spiders, one of the most species-rich animal groups, and our current projects largely concern the evolution of proteins that have enabled their proliferation. Spider silks are renowned for their impressive mechanical properties and exhibit tremendous functional variation within and across species. We are using genomic tools to characterize the polymer-like proteins that make up spider silks from a variety of species. Because these proteins are encoded by a gene family, phylogenetic analyses of spiders and the silk proteins they synthesize are used to trace the long and complex history of silk evolution. Another major project is focused on the evolution of venom from black widow spiders and their close relatives. We are determining the molecular composition of these venoms to investigate the origin and diversification of potent toxins that enable prey capture. Such evolutionary work facilitates the discovery of beneficial and hazardous toxins with biomedical significance.


  • Ph D: Environmental Science, Policy and Management, (2003), University of California Berkeley
  • MS: Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology, (1998), University of Hawaii Manoa
  • BS: Natural Resources, (1996), Cornell University

Selected Awards and Honors

  • Dorothy M. Skinner Award (2009) - Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology

Selected Publications

  • Garb, J.E., Haney, R.A., Clarke, T.H., Gadgil, R., Fitzpatrick, R., Hayashi, C.Y., Ayoub, N.A. (2016) "Effects of Gene Duplication, Positive Selection, and Shifts in Gene Expression on the Evolution of the Venom Gland Transcriptome in Widow Spiders," Genome biology and evolution 8:1 pp. 228–242
  • Garb, J.E., Correa-Garhwal, S.M. (2014) "Diverse Formulas for Spider Dragline Fibers Demonstrated by Molecular and Mechanical Characterization of Spitting Spider Silk," Biomacromolecules 15:12 pp. 4598-4605
  • Garb, J.E., Haney, R., Ayoub, N., Clarke, T., Hayashi, C. (2014) "Dramatic Expansion of the Black Widow Toxin Arsenal Uncovered by Multi-Tissue Transcriptomics and Venom Proteomics," BMC Genomics 15: pp. 366
  • Garb, J.E., Bhere, K.V., Haney, R.A., Ayoub, N.A. (2014) "Gene Structure, Regulatory Control, and Evolution of Black Widow Venom Latrotoxins," FEBS letters 588:21 pp. 3891-3897
  • Garb, J.E., Clarke, T., Hayashi, C., Haney, R., Lancaster, A., Corbett, S., Ayoub, N. (2014) "Multi-Tissue Transcriptomics of the Black Widow Spider Reveals Expansions, Co-Options, and Functional Processes of the Silk Gland Gene Toolkit," BMC Genomics 15: pp. 365
  • Garb, J.E., McCowan, C. (2014) "Recruitment and Diversification of an Ecdysozoan Family of Neuropeptide Hormones for Black Widow Spider Venom Expression," Gene 536:2 pp. 366-375
  • Garb, J.E., Zobel-Thropp, P., Correa, S., Binford, G. (2014) "Spit and Venom from Scytodes Spiders: A Diverse and Distinct Cocktail," Journal of Proteome Research 13:2 pp. 817-835
  • Garb, J.E. (2014) "Extraction of Venom and Venom Gland Microdissections from Spiders for Proteomic and Transcriptomic Analyses," Journal of Visualized Experiments 93
  • Garb, J.E. (2013) "Spider Silk: An Ancient Biomaterial for 21st Century Research," Siri Scientific Press
  • Garb, J.E., Zobel-Thropp, P.A., Correa, S., Binford, G. (2012) "A Survey of Venom from the Spitting Spider Scytodes Includes Novel Toxins," Toxicon 60:2 pp. 233
  • Garb, J.E., Starrett, J., Kuelbs, A., Azubuike, U.O., Hayashi, C.Y. (2012) "Early Events in the Evolution of Spider Silk Genes," PLoS ONE 7:6
  • Garb, J.E., Ayoub, N.A., Hayashi, C.Y. (2010) "Untangling Spider Silk Evolution with Spidroin Terminal Domains," BMC Evolutionary Biology 10:1
  • Garb, J.E., Collin, M.A., Edgerly, J.S., Hayashi, C.Y. (2009) "Characterization of Silk Spun by the Embiopteran, Antipaluria Urichi," Insect biochemistry and molecular biology 39:2 pp. 75-82
  • Garb, J.E., GILLESPIE, R.G. (2009) "Diversity Despite Dispersal: Colonization History and Phylogeography of Hawaiian Crab Spiders Inferred from Multilocus Genetic Data," Molecular ecology 18:8 pp. 1746-1764
  • Garb, J.E., Vink, C.J., Hedin, M., Bodner, M.R., Maddison, W.P., Hayashi, C.Y. (2008) "Actin 5C, a Promising Nuclear Gene for Spider Phylogenetics," Molecular phylogenetics and evolution 48:1 pp. 377-382
  • Garb, J.E., HAYASHI, C., AYOUB, N. (2008) "Spider Silk Dragline Polynucleotides, Polypeptides and Methods of Use Thereof,"
  • Garb, J.E., Ayoub, N.A., Tinghitella, R.M., Collin, M.A., Hayashi, C.Y. (2007) "Blueprint for a High-Performance Biomaterial: Full-Length Spider Dragline Silk Genes," PLoS One 2:6
  • Garb, J.E., DiMauro, T., Lewis, R.V., Hayashi, C.Y. (2007) "Expansion and Intragenic Homogenization of Spider Silk Genes Since the Triassic: Evidence from Mygalomorphae (Tarantulas and Their Kin) Spidroins," Molecular biology and evolution 24:11 pp. 2454-2464
  • Garb, J.E., Ayoub, N.A., Hedin, M., Hayashi, C.Y. (2007) "Utility of the Nuclear Protein-Coding Gene, Elongation Factor-1 Gamma (EF-1 ), for Spider Systematics, Emphasizing Family Level Relationships of Tarantulas and Their Kin (Araneae: Mygalomorphae)," Molecular phylogenetics and evolution 42:2 pp. 394-409
  • Garb, J.E. (2006) "A New Species of Thomisid Spider (Araneae, Thomisidae) from the Society Islands with a Description of the Male of Misumenops Melloleitaoi," Journal of Arachnology 34:2 pp. 357-367
  • Garb, J.E., Gillespie, R.G. (2006) "Island Hopping Across the Central Pacific: Mitochondrial DNA Detects Sequential Colonization of the Austral Islands by Crab Spiders (Araneae: Thomisidae)," Journal of Biogeography 33:2 pp. 201-220
  • Garb, J.E., DiMauro, T., Vo, V., Hayashi, C.Y. (2006) "Silk Genes Support the Single Origin of Orb Webs," Science 312:5781 pp. 1762-1762
  • Garb, J.E., Hayashi, C.Y. (2005) "Modular Evolution of Egg Case Silk Genes Across Orb-Weaving Spider Superfamilies," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 102:32 pp. 11379-11384
  • Garb, J.E., Gonz?lez, A., Gillespie, R.G. (2004) "The Black Widow Spider Genus Latrodectus (Araneae: Theridiidae): Phylogeny, Biogeography, and Invasion History," Molecular phylogenetics and evolution 31:3 pp. 1127-1142
  • Garb, J.E., Gillespie, R.G. (2001) "Color Coordinated: Systematics, Biogeography and the Evolution of Plant Mimicry in Hawaiian Crab Spiders (Araneae: Thomisidae),"
  • Garb, J.E. (1999) "An Adaptive Radiation of Hawaiian Thomisidae: Biogeographic and Genetic Evidence," Journal of Arachnology pp. 71-78
  • Garb, J.E. (1999) "Unusual Phenotype Suggests Role for Homeotic Genes in Arachnid Development," Journal of Arachnology 27:2 pp. 539-541

Selected Contracts, Fellowships, Grants and Sponsored Research

  • Discovering Biomedically Significant Spider Venom Toxins With Genomics (2011), Grant - NIH
    Garb, J.E. (Principal)
  • Seed Grant for Advancing Research Scholarship and Creative Work (2010), Grant - UMass Lowell Research Scholarship Council
    Garb, J. (Principal)
  • Faculty-Student Collaborative Research Project (2010), - UMass Lowell, Council on Teaching and Learning Grant Task Force
    Garb, J. (Principal)
  • Kirschstein National Research Service Award, Individual Postdoctoral Fellowship (2007), - National Institutes of Health
    Garb, J. (Principal)