The scientific interests of my research group are on a broad scale. Our research generally involves the study of insect responses to environmental stressors to address ecologically applied issues, as well as taking an evolutionary biology approach to understanding trends in ecology.
In particular, we are interested in how human activities affect insect populations, biodiversity, and function. We primarily study the effects of how agricultural practices and climate change independently and in combination impact bees. This has involved focusing on how specific factors, such as aspects of habitat loss, chemical applications and temperature changes can influence individual molecular responses, physiology, behaviour(s) and fitness, and how this scales to shape populations and communities.
Whilst not wedded to a particular study organism/system, social insects (bumblebees in particular) have been the focus of our research. 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 vital ecosystem functions and crucial ecosystem services important for human welfare.
Another driving interest of ours is to understand how we can eavesdrop on pollination signals to reduce pollination deficits and improve the management of pollinator populations.
Selected News from the Group
Check out the recent X-polli:nation paper that has come from a project on empowering young school pupils by educating them on the diversity and importance of insect pollinators and how to create habitats to support them using learning tools inspired by citizen science approaches. The aim was also to engage young people with the UN Sustainability goals.
Congrats to Danny Kenna; who after finishing his PhD has landed a great job at Defra, and also published a third chapter from his thesis on how temperature can modulate the effects of pesticide toxicity on behaviours in different ways in the journal Global Change Biology.
As part of the BBC's Inside Science show, Rich spoke to Radio 4 about the emergency use of neonicotinoid insecticides - 12 minutes into the show
Aoife's 1st publication from her PhD on the importance of trait turnover in structuring Arctic plant-pollinator relationships is now published in Functional Ecology.
Great collaboration with the X-polli:nation team led by Poppy Lakeman-Fraser, we have had a paper accepted titled: Contributing towards sustainable development goals through school-based pollinator citizen science - currently in press.
Round of applause for Aoife whose blog relating to the JAE paper was featured on: International Women’s Day 2023 – Animal Ecology in Focus.
Congrats to Andres and Aoife for their paper finding evidence for increasing stress in bumblebees over the 20th century, and revealing how climatic conditions can contribute to this. Out in Journal of Animal Ecology. The paper received a lot of press interest including ITV & Channel 4 evening news, BBC Radio 4, Washington Post, and The Guardian
Checkout out our paper showcasing genome sequencing of specimens dating back to the late 19th century, in collaboration with the Barnes group from NHM London. Out in Methods in Ecology & Evolution
Celebrating UN World Bee Day 2022, Rich was interviewed by the BBC in the Arctic. Click to see the video.
Congrats to Monika for getting the first paper from her PhD published, reviewing the threat of pesticide and disease co-exposure to managed and wild bee larvae.
Congrats to Aoife for being awarded 1st prize for her presentation at the NW IUSSI conference (Dec 2021) for her Masters work; studying signatures of stress in bumblebee museum specimens.
Collaborating with Joe Colgan and Yanick Wurm, our bumblebee genome paper is out in Molecular Biology & Evolution.
Cecylia Watrobska published her UG project work, investigating if pollen source richness predicts bumblebee colony growth
Current Group (see 'research' page for more details)
NERC funded DTP PhD students: Aoife Cantwell-Jones (in 3rd year)
Dept. PhD: Catherine Parry (in 2nd year)
PhD funded by CB Dennis, Bee Insurance Ltd & BBKA: Kieran Storer (to start Oct 2023)
PhD co-supervisor: Monika Yordanova (Sup. Peter Graystock, CB Dennis funded); Mahika Dixit (Sup. Will Pearse, Imperial, NERC)
Masters students: Rona Learmonth, Yao Yao, Jacqui James, Moganavalli Kattan, George Allen, Elliott Parnell, Shengge Tong
Previous Group Members
Independent Fellow hosted by Gill lab: Dr Peter Graystock
Associated Fellow: Dr Jacob Johansson
NERC funded PDRA: Dr Andres Arce
Grantham funded PDRA: Dr Kirsty Yule
NERC funded DTP PhD students: Dr Danny Kenna (2017-2021); Dylan Smith (2014-2019)
BBSRC funded PhD student: Dr Ana Ramos-Rodrigues (2016-2020)
BBSRC funded PhD student (co-supervised): Dr Joe Palmer (Sup. Dr Vincent Jansen, RHUL, BBSRC, 2019-2023).
Masters project students: Yuming Shi, Fereozah Mahmood, Lucia Hudson, Suzannah Eggleston, Juliet Everson, Li Wang (2022); Sarah Hudson, Nerea Montes Perez, Claire Tsui, Charlotte McGinty, Oonagh Barker, Mahika Dixit (2021); Michael Tansley, Aoife Cantwell-Jones, Connor Lovell, Henrique Galante Nunes de Sousa, Sarah Hudson, Sebastian Pipins, Alan Ward (2020); Emma Eatough, Xeuni Bian, Lottie Gibbons, Rach Dawson, Freja Gjerstad, Chloe Sargent and Stephen Bishop (2019); Jacob Birkenhead, Marcus Rhodes, Tara Cox, Libby Bates, Miranda Burke, Flo Coulmance--Gayrard (2018); Koorosh McCormack, Cecylia Watrobska, Nicholas Tew, Elspeth MacKeller, Jenny Dawson, John Paterson (2017), Ross Gray, Laura Bentley, Chun (Harris) Tso (2016); Jiajun (Stanley) Yu, Katie Taylor, Sarah Gougeon (2015), Emma Randall, Thomas David (2014)
Kenna D, Graystock P, Gill R, 2023, Toxic temperatures: bee behaviours exhibit divergent pesticide toxicity relationships with warming, Global Change Biology, Vol:29, ISSN:1354-1013, Pages:2981-2998
et al., 2023, Signatures of increasing environmental stress in bumblebee wings over the past century: Insights from museum specimens, Journal of Animal Ecology, Vol:92, ISSN:0021-8790, Pages:297-309
et al., 2023, First large-scale quantification study of DNA preservation in insects from natural history collections using genome-wide sequencing, Methods in Ecology and Evolution, Vol:14, ISSN:2041-210X, Pages:360-371
et al., 2022, The threat of pesticide and disease co-exposure to managed and wild bee larvae, International Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife, Vol:17, ISSN:2213-2244, Pages:319-326
et al., 2022, Genomic signatures of recent adaptation in a wild bumblebee, Molecular Biology and Evolution, Vol:39, ISSN:0737-4038, Pages:1-9
Kenna D, Pawar S, Gill R, 2021, Thermal flight performance reveals impact of warming on bumblebee foraging potential, Functional Ecology, Vol:35, ISSN:0269-8463, Pages:2508-2522
et al., 2020, Insecticide exposure during brood or early-adult development reduces brain growth and impairs adult learning in bumblebees, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Vol:287, ISSN:0962-8452
et al., 2019, Pesticide exposure affects flight dynamics and reduces flight endurance in bumblebees, Ecology and Evolution, Vol:9, ISSN:2045-7758, Pages:5637-5650
et al., 2019, Caste- and pesticide-specific effects of neonicotinoid pesticide exposure on gene expression in bumblebees, Molecular Ecology, Vol:28, ISSN:0962-1083, Pages:1964-1974
et al., 2018, Foraging bumblebees acquire a preference for neonicotinoid treated food with prolonged exposure, Proceedings - Royal Society. Biological sciences, Vol:285, ISSN:1471-2954
et al., 2018, Lower bumblebee colony reproductive success in agricultural compared with urban environments, Proceedings - Royal Society. Biological sciences, Vol:285, ISSN:1471-2954
et al., 2016, Impact of controlled neonicotinoid exposure on bumblebees in a realistic field setting, Journal of Applied Ecology, Vol:54, ISSN:1365-2664, Pages:1199-1208
et al., 2016, Exploring miniature insect brains using micro-CT scanning techniques, Scientific Reports, Vol:6, ISSN:2045-2322
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
Gill RJ, Ramos-Rodriguez O, Raine NE, 2012, Combined pesticide exposure severely affects individual- and colony-level traits in bees, Nature, Vol:491, ISSN:0028-0836, Pages:105-U119