The general goal of our group's research is to understand and predict insect and plant responses to global change factors to address ecological concepts and applied issues, and to inform mitigation and conservation action. Our work often takes an evolutionary biology approach to understanding trends in ecology.
We are interested in how human activities affect insect and plant behaviour, population dynamics, diversity, and their functional roles (especially insect pollinators & host plants). A focus has been on revealing the impacts of agricultural land use and climate change, particularly how aspects of habitat loss, chemical applications and environmental temperature can influence individual molecular responses, physiology, behaviour and fitness. Complementing these findings with molecular methods, field studies and modelling, we look to determine how these factors may be selectively shaping populations and scaling up to alter community composition and interaction networks.
Whilst not wedded to a particular study system, social insects have been a large focus of our research. Their large and intricate societies exhibit efficient and 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.
Recent group news
Aoife's second paper from her PhD is now out in Ecology Letters giving a perspective on how we can use individual trait-based frameworks to understand plant-pollinator responses to environmental change. Amazing work!
Great to collaborate with the Webster group in Uppsala, who led a study using bumblebee genomes to study population genetic diversity in vulnerable species.
Working with Jacob Johansson, our paper has been accepted in Oecologia showing how modeling larval competition in annual social insects can explain egg-laying strategies & colony responses to environmental variation.
We celebrate our fifth field season anniversary (2018-2023) studying Arctic bumblebees. This is in collaboration with Keith Larson, and is affiliated with CIRC. Please also listen to a podcast covering earlier Masters student's work.
Danny Kenna's third chapter of his thesis was published in Global Change Biology showing how temperature influences pesticide toxicity on a range of bee behaviours
Another congrats to Aoife for publishing the first chapter of her PhD thesis in Functional Ecology showing the importance of considering spatiotemporal turnover of pollinator traits when understanding plant-pollinator network dynamics
Celebrating women in science, Aoife's blog post 'Bee declines: what’s the stress all about?' was featured by the Journal of Animal Ecology as part of International Women's Day 2023.
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.
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
Our work on museum specimens got lots of press interest, including ITV news, Channel 4, BBC Radio 4, The Guardian, Washington Post, and more.
In 2021 we helped the BBC film Arctic bumblebees, and the footage came out on Frozen Planet II (Series 5) this October 2022. Click here to see a BBC behind-the-scenes interview.
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.