Key Research Interests and Expertise

I am an evolutionary biologist and behavioural ecologist interested in the evolutionary, ecological and genetic basis of social behaviour and in the conservation biology of social insects. Particular research areas and activities include:

  • Empirical studies to test hypotheses from inclusive fitness (kin selection) theory using ants and bumble bees
  • Conceptual, synthetic and empirical studies that apply insights from the study of social evolution to related domains, examples being the evolution of ageing and the major transitions in evolution
  • Developing genetic methods for censusing wild populations of bees with a view to aiding conservation initiatives for these threatened pollinators
  • Assessment of agri-environment schemes for bumble bees and the conservation genetics of scarce or declining social insects

We conduct a mixture of laboratory work and field work in the group. For the laboratory work, we rear colonies of ants in our incubators and we either rear our own bumble bee colonies from wild-caught queens or buy in colonies from commercial suppliers, all of which are then maintained under controlled conditions in BIO's recent Controlled Environment Facility. Our study methods include direct observation and filming to investigate within-nest behaviour and the monitoring of wild-reared bumble bee nests placed outside to look at behaviour in a field setting. They also include microsatellite genotyping to measure within-colony relatedness or to investigate space use by free-flying bees, and (with collaborators) qRT-PCR and RNA-Seq to measure gene expression levels. Field techniques include scoring bee biodiversity as a function of landscape features and detailed studies of plant-bee interactions.

We hold a weekly meeting and group lunch to troubleshoot problems and discuss the latest research by ourselves and others. In addition, we benefit from the lively and supportive research environment provided by the Organisms and Environment Research Theme, CEEC and BIO as a whole, as well as the wider Norwich Research Park. Each of these organizations runs seminar programs and social events. Everyone in the group is encouraged to attend and present at national and international conferences such as meetings of ASAB, BES, ESEB, ISBE and IUSSI.

PhD Positions

Click here for current PhD opportunities in Biological Sciences. But feel free to email me to discuss projects outside these areas and alternative sources of funding.

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