The scientific interests of my research group are on a broad scale, but our research often involves the study of animal behaviours to address ecologically applied issues, as well as taking an evolutionary biology approach to understanding trends in ecology.
Whilst not wedded to a particular study organism, social insects (mainly ants and bees) have been the typical focal system of our work. Their large and intricate societies exhibit efficient and often complex cooperative behaviours making them not only interesting for the study of animal behaviour, but also a dominant insect group in the environment that provide crucial ecosystem services.
Recent publication: Smith et al. (2016) Exploring miniature insect brains using micro-CT scanning techniques. in: Scientific Reports
Recent publication: Gill et al. (2016) Protecting an ecosystem service: approaches to understanding and mitigating threats to wild insect pollinators. in: Advances in Ecological Research
or go to this link
Dr Jacob Johansson will be working with the group from April 2016 after being awarded a Marie Curie Fellowship
My research follows two primary themes:
Impact of stressors in the environment on insect pollinators
My group studies some of the environmental factors that place stress on social bees - primarily bumblebees (a wild insect pollinator). To elucidate these impacts we are interested in studying how specific factors affect individual behaviour and how this is linked to changes at the physiological level. We then further investigate how such impairment to individual function may collectively translate to impact(s) on the health/success of the colony, and furthermore how we may gain insights into the effects at the population level. Learning from these results we can start to map how such potential risks are spatially distributed to better understand 'stress exposure landscapes' and thus provide valuable information for ecological applications, in addition to understanding how these selective pressures may be shaping bee populations.
Social bees, such as wild bumblebees and domesticated honeybees, have particular ecological and economic importance by pollinating many wild flowers and agricultural crops. A large focus of our current research is to evaluate whether pesticides found in the environment are having a detrimental effects on bumblebee health/state, their foraging performance and subsequent pollination service.
Evolution of social strategies
I am fascinated by the variety of social strategies adopted across the animal kingdom. I want to understand what cooperative behaviours are required for succcesful group living (specifically cooperative breeding), to investigate the consequent conflicts involved and the resolving behavioural mechanisms that maintain group cohesion, and to understand what ecological and genetic factors determine variation in social organisation.
Group (see 'research' page for more details)
NERC funded PDRA: Dr Andres Arce
NERC funded Technician: Ana Ramos-Rodrigues
NERC funded DTP PhD student: Dylan Smith
BBSRC funded PhD student (1 + 3): Leonie Gough
Tropical Ecology Masters student: Ross Gray
PhD co-supervisor for: Liz Samuelson (Sup. Dr Elli Leadbeater, RHUL), BBSRC (1 +3)
Previous Group Members
Erasmus visiting PhD student: Illaria Pretelli
Masters project students: Jiajun (Stanley) Yu (2015), Katie Taylor (2015), Sarah Gougeon (2015), Emma Randall (2014), Thomas David (2014)
3rd year project students: Shona Crawford (2015), Ross Gray (2015), Henry Clifford (2015), Jessica Clarke (2014), Abby Simms (2014)
et al., 2016, Exploring miniature insect brains using micro-CT scanning techniques, Scientific Reports, Vol:6, Pages:21768-21768
et al., 2016, Protecting an Ecosystem Service: Approaches to Understanding and Mitigating Threats to Wild Insect Pollinators, Advances in Ecological Research, Vol:54, ISSN:0065-2504, Pages:135-206
Gill RJ, Raine NE, 2014, Chronic impairment of bumblebee natural foraging behaviour induced by sublethal pesticide exposure, Functional Ecology, Vol:28, ISSN:0269-8463, Pages:1459-1471
et al., 2013, Chronic sublethal stress causes bee colony failure, Ecology Letters, Vol:16, ISSN:1461-023X, Pages:1463-1469